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Why it’s better for the environment to eat less meat

Meat is a common part of many people’s diets, but it also has a significant environmental impact. From greenhouse gas emissions to water use, from deforestation to biodiversity loss, meat production and consumption affect the planet in various ways.

Here are some of the reasons why eating less meat can help reduce your environmental footprint and protect the environment.

Meat contributes to climate change

According to the United Nations, livestock production accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming, which leads to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, melting ice caps, and loss of habitats. By eating less meat, you can lower your carbon footprint and help mitigate climate change.

Meat uses a lot of water

Producing meat requires a lot of water for irrigation, drinking, cleaning, and processing. For example, it takes about 15,400 liters of water to produce 1 kg of beef, compared to 322 liters for 1 kg of vegetables. Water is a scarce and precious resource that many people lack access to. By eating less meat, you can save water and reduce water pollution from animal waste and fertilizers.

Meat causes deforestation

To meet the growing demand for meat, forests are cleared to make room for pastureland or feed crops. This destroys natural habitats for wildlife and reduces biodiversity. Deforestation also releases carbon stored in trees and soils into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change. By eating less meat, you can help preserve forests and their ecosystem services.

Meat affects human health

Eating too much meat can have negative effects on your health as well as the environment. Studies have shown that high intakes of red and processed meat are associated with increased risks of colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. On the other hand, eating more plant-based foods can provide you with essential nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12 without harming your health or the environment.

That all sounds very bad, so how do I eat less meat?

Eating less meat does not mean giving up meat entirely or becoming vegetarian or vegan (unless you want to). It means being more mindful of how much and what kind of meat you eat and choosing more sustainable options when possible. 

Some ways you can eat less meat include:

  • Reducing your portion sizes or frequency of eating meat
  • Replacing some or all of your meat with plant-based alternatives such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, or mushrooms.
  • Choosing organic -, grass-fed -, or locally sourced -meat that has lower environmental impacts than conventional or imported meat
  • Supporting farmers who practice regenerative agriculture that enhances soil health, biodiversity -, animal welfare -, and carbon sequestration.

By eating less meat, you can not only improve your health but also make a positive difference for the environment.

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