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Climate Change and Adopting a Plant-Based Diet

Climate change is the most important issue of our times.  The actions that we take personally, in our communities and by our governments will determine whether human life can be sustained on this planet.  The opportunity to sort it out is not something that future generations will have the luxury of having.  Its our responsibility to do it now.

Research clearly shows the link between greenhouse gas emissions and livestock agriculture.  The livestock supply chain generates some 7.1Gt CO2 equivalent emissions, contributing to about 14.5% of global human-made emissions according to Food Climate Research Network in their 2017 report “Grazed and Confused?”

When we think of greenhouse gases we immediately think of carbon dioxide.  Carbon is released into the atmosphere when we dig or drill into the ground to access fossil fuels in the form of coal, oil and natural gas.  Further carbon is released into the atmosphere when the coal, oil and gas are burnt to create energy.  Electricity and petrol in cars.

But among the other greenhouse gases is methane.  Ruminants, grazing animals that regurgitate their food from one stomach to another, produce a huge amount of methane gas as part of their digestive process.  Ruminants produce about 80% of total livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions and cattle alone produce 65%.

And its not just the methane they produce.  Livestock farming is a very inefficient use of land.  Meat and dairy provides just 18% of total consumed calories and 37% of protein, and it uses 83% of all agricultural land.  That is land that could be used for growing crops.  In addition loss of wild areas to agricultural land is the leading cause of mass extinction of wildlife.  But nor can we accept intensive farming as this is bad for animal welfare and increases the amount of land used to grow feed for the animals.

Joseph Poore of Oxford University who led research entitled “Reducing Foods Environmental Impacts Through Producers and Consumers” says “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.  It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.

“Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems.  Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this.  Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.

“The reason I started this project was to understand if there were sustainable animal producers out there.  But I have stopped consuming animal products over the last four years of this project.  These impacts are not necessary to sustain our current way of life.  The question is how much can we reduce them and the answer is alot.”

The study finds that a persons individual carbon footprint can be reduced by up to 73% by adopting a plant-based diet.

Indigo Wholefoods has been a vegetarian food shop since its inception in 2008.  In 2017 I removed all non-vegetarian supplements from our shelves.  But I am determined to go further.  While the greatest environmental impact is from meat production, there is no doubt that dairy farming contributes as well.  Over the next few weeks I will be fazing out our few dairy products (cow and goat) and identifying which other products contain dairy ingredients or trace amounts of dairy and replacing them with tasty, sustainable plant-based alternatives.

I am committed to doing everything I can personally and at Indigo Wholefoods to sustain human life on this planet for future generations.  I will not profit from activities that have a detrimental effect on our environment.

Further Reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

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