As awareness of the environmental impact of factory farming grows, vegan and vegetarian diets have become more popular among individuals looking to reduce their carbon footprint and eat healthier at the same time.
“Helping the environment wasn’t my original reason for becoming vegan, but it was a factor in my decision,” junior Emmy Sobol who is a vegan said. “I felt like I wanted to challenge myself to be healthier and also reduce my global impact.”
Factory farms, large-scale operations that raise animals for food at the expense of their welfare, are responsible for 37 percent of methane gas emissions, which has more than 20 times the global warming capacity of carbon dioxide, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
“It’s hard to imagine the kind of impact that you have on the planet when simply driving to the grocery store and buying different kinds of food,” Emily Cassidy, Sustainability Science Manager at the California Academy of Sciences, said. “Those actions actually have consequences, not just on the local environment but on the entire atmosphere and world.”
Not only does meat production and farming have an effect on global warming via methane released by animals, but it also damages the surrounding land and ecosystems.
“As global population begins to grow, the pressure to grow food in a sustainable and resilient manner will only increase,” environmentalist Al Gore said in his most recent 24-hour broadcast organized by Climate Reality Project. “We are also seeing a rise in awareness of why organic agriculture and healthier diets are extremely important.”
The methane emissions from livestock increased by 11 percent this last year alone and are on a trajectory to continue growing, according to the Joint Global Change Research Institute.
The largest amount of animal-related greenhouse gas emissions comes from the developing world.
“With factory farming and industrial agriculture, we see abusive practices that harm the land, harm the environment and are associated with modern diseases such as obesity,” Gore said. “We are also seeing a rise in awareness of why organic agriculture and healthier diets are extremely important.”
Vegetables and legumes emit less approximately 250 times less methane and carbon dioxide than the production of livestock, according to David Tillman Regents Professor at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
“Our agricultural system is on the front lines of the climate crisis,” Gore said. “Food production is not only a major contributor to global emissions, but it is also greatly affected by the consequences of global warming. As global population begins to grow, the pressure to grow food in a sustainable and resilient manner will only increase.”
Individuals do not have to eliminate all animal products from her diet to lessen her environmental impact.
“Even I will slip up,” senior Kelly Rosanelli, who usually maintains a vegan diet, said. “When that happens I think a lot of people give up completely or they’ll just get really disappointed, The most important thing to know is that the effort is what counts and every step forward is beneficial.”