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Vegan Diet

3 Ways Going Vegan Reduces Your Carbon Footprint

Our by-the-numbers guide shows the benefits of a plant-based diet, even if you do it just one day a week.

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Your food choices can have far-reaching impacts on your health and the environment—from the amount of water it takes to produce a pound of beef to the pollution and illness spread by conventional feedlots. Our by-the-numbers guide shows how the benefits of cutting out meat stack up, even if you give it up just one day a week.

 Interested in trying a vegan diet? Sign up for our 21-Day Vegan Challenge here. 

Curb Climate Change

Transporting feed, animals, and meat; operating facili­­ties and refrigerating storage areas; the creation of large amounts of concentrated animal waste—all of these contribute to our pollution problems. Eating vegan just one day a week cuts more greenhouse-gas emissions, from machinery and the animals themselves, than adopting a local diet does. “In terms of climate change, what you eat is often more important than how far your food travels,” says Brent Kim, a program officer at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

GOING VEGAN…

1 day/week = an 8 percent reduction in your annual food-related greenhouse-gas emissions or the equivalent of not driving for 2 weeks

3 days/week = a 25 percent reduction in your annual food-related greenhouse-gas emissions or the equivalent of not driving for 2 months

7 days/week = a 58 percent reduction in your annual food-related greenhouse-gas emissions or the equivalent of not driving for 4.5 months

Reduce Water Use

woman washing face

The typical American uses, on average, nearly 2,000 gallons of water a day to support his or her lifestyle, with more than 50 percent of that used for food production, according to the latest research. Think about a burger: For every pound of conventional (not grass-fed) beef sold, it can take an estimated 1,600 to 1,800 gallons of water to grow crops used as animal feed, provide animals with drinking water, and to clean processing facilities. On average, a vegan uses nearly 600 gallons less every day to support his or her diet, according to a recent National Geographic Society analysis.

GOING VEGAN…

1 day/week = an 8 percent reduction in your annual food-related water use or a savings of 31,200 gallons of water every year

3 days/week = a 24 percent reduction in your annual food-related water use or a savings of 93,600 gallons of water every year

7 days/week = a 57 percent reduction in your annual food-related water use or a savings of 218,400 gallons of water every year

Feel Lighter

While some plant foods contain saturated fats—coconut oil, for example, is heavy with the stuff—most of the 54 g per day the average omnivore eats comes from meat and dairy, according to a recent study in the journal Nutrients. Vegans, on the other hand, consume just 21 g a day. (The American Heart Association recommends sticking closer to 16 g.) While saturated fat can raise cholesterol, recent studies suggest it may not increase risk for heart disease. But all that extra fat does contribute a significant number of calories (fat contains 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbs have 4), and extra weight can raise your risk for heart problems, diabetes, arthritis, and more.

GOING VEGAN…

1 day/week = a 9 percent reduction in the amount of sat fat you consume each year or 15,500 calories a year

3 days/week = a 26 percent reduction in the amount of sat fat you consume each year or 46,500 calories a year

7 days/week = a 61 percent reduction in the amount of sat fat you consume each year or 108,000 calories a year
breakfast = 450 calories 65 g carbs | 14 g protein | 8 g fat