Earth day offers an opportunity for us all to reflect upon our relationship with the planet. The health of the planet and its people has never been so important.
After this lockdown, we may see greater appreciation for nature in many places around the world. We’ve seen some improvements on pollution levels. People, generally speaking, have started to consider their impact on earth and how urgently we need a change. So now there’s a window for opportunity. Opportunity to consider what we can do on an individual level to change the world we live in.
“Veganism is 'single biggest way' to reduce our environmental impact on planet” Oxford University study finds
How many times have we read this sentence without actually understanding how a vegan diet and lifestyle can impact our live on earth?
Each of us makes an environmental impact on earth and our lifestyle affects how significant this impact is. The study from the University of Oxford has analysed how a number of agricultural industries affect the environment in three different ways: water pollution, air pollution and climate change emissions.
What are the most significant environmentally-friendly lifestyle changes you can start making today?
But what are the main benefits of this choice?
- Cut Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions - An individual can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 73% by simply cutting off meat and dairy products from their diet. This is far bigger than choosing an electric vehicle or cutting down on air travel. But what about choosing meat and dairy farms in more sustainable methods? The oxford university study showed that the conversation of grass into meat (in the grass-fed beef industry) is like converting coal to energy. Meaning that it produces a lot of emissions, and therefore is not an environmentally sound choice.
- Preservation of Habitats and Species and reduction of deforestation - Eating animals is the largest contributor in habitat loss and mass extinction. Producing meat requires large amounts of land to raise animals on. Every second, an area of rainforest equivalent to a football field is cleared to rear and graze animals! It is estimated that eating meat requires three times more land than is needed for a vegan diet
- Preservation of water - Food choices can have a big impact on water demand. Unlike the majority of plant-based foods, raising animals requires vast amounts of water. This is because animals need water to drink, wash, clean their living spaces and cool themselves during hot periods
Other things you can also do to minimize your impact on an individual scale?
- Optimize your home – you can opt for solar panel installations and on an easier level make sure your home is well insulated.
- Drive less, cycle more or use electric vehicles – if you live in a city there’s no reason not to use the transports available, or consider car-sharing options. If you live in more rural areas, perhaps an electric vehicle could be a better option.
- Eat local and in season – think about how many miles has your food traveled before reaching your plate? When you choose to buy locally grown food you are supporting a diverse food economy. Also, the further food has traveled, especially if it is refrigerated or frozen, the more energy it has taken to reach your table. Locally produced food spends much less time in transit than globally sourced produce. As the time from field to plate is shorter, the food is fresher and retains more nutrients and flavour.
- Buy second hand and avoid fast fashion - although difficult to do an exact calculation on the amount of carbon saved in buying second hand versus buying new, extending the average life of clothes by just three months up to two years and five months would result in a 5 to 10% reduction in carbon, water and waste footprints of the items, so definitely worth considering!
- Reduce and reuse: temper your appetite for consumerism - beyond clothing, any new purchase comes with an embedded carbon price tag. Reuse and reduce should form the pillars of your sustainable ideology. Recycling can only go so far; so, by moderating how you consume you can create a bigger impact.
We need nature now more than ever, as a solution and as a resource. Surely, individual tweaks can only go so far, and the responsibility should be on vast, powerful industries to curb pollution, as well as governments to take urgent and radical action on cutting our reliance on fossil fuels. But for the time being, individual choices are the best way to start shifting the system to a more sustainable future.
Let’s look ahead for every possible opportunity to make a difference and emerge this pandemic with more fruitful solutions for the planet.