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Environmental Nutrition

Environmental Nutrition?noresize

Have you ever wondered how your eating habits are impacting the broader environment? Shifting from animal products to plants such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and grains not only help improve health, but can help fight climate change! By reducing meat and animal products in your diet, you can help improve pollution, fresh water supplies and greenhouse gas emissions.

Water Use

Research suggests that reducing animal consumption by 50% can reduce the food system’s food-related water footprint. To put this into perspective, growing 1 ton of beets requires 52,000 gallons of water, whereas producing 1 ton of beef requires 4 million gallons of water! Animal food production is more resource-intensive than plant food production.

Greenhouse Gases

Plant food production also contributes fewer greenhouse gas emissions than animal food production. Greenhouse gases include methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and other chemicals that contribute to global climate change. Methane gas from livestock digestion, especially in cows, is absorbed into the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization, shrinking livestock herds would help to reduce methane release, which is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.

Habitats and Landscapes

Did you know that cattle ranching may contribute up to 80% of deforestation? Clearing and burning forests releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Using nitrogen fertilizers also releases greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These factors contribute up to 51% of greenhouse gas emissions annually. A report suggests that “vegan and vegetarian diets were associated with the greatest reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.” In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated that “a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet.”

In addition to eating more plant-based meals and fewer animal products, you may be wondering, “what are some other ways to reduce my environmental impact?” First, buy local produce and in-season fruits and vegetables to help support local farmers. Buying local products reduces fuel consumption. Bring your own bags to the grocery store and buy your food in bulk to minimize packaging waste. Lastly, reduce food waste by taking inventory of your foods and shopping strategically.

How can you start to take action today? Adding a meatless Monday or meatless meals into your weekly schedule can be a great way to practice an environmentally friendly lifestyle

Talk with your nutritionist or dietitian or check out or vegan/vegetarian resource page to incorporate more plant-based meals into your lifestyle!

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