Vegan Society Member, Annie Button, discusses the connection between veganism and sustainability for this year's Earth Day
Back in 2021, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report issued a code red for humanity and we are now watching the climate crisis worsen, from record summer temperatures to rising ocean levels and melting polar ice caps. The planet is in serious danger and we need to act quickly to repair the damage. In honour of 2023’s Earth Day, we look at the connections between a vegan lifestyle and sustainability on a broader scale.
Motivated by environmental factors
Veganism may start for many people as a desire to stand up for animal rights. But as an increasing number of Gen Z join the fight, the reasons behind adopting this lifestyle lean more into environmental concerns.
And it’s no wonder — research shows that meat and dairy production is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions and, compared with a traditional way of eating, a vegan diet has a 41% smaller environmental footprint than a meat-based diet. This is an estimation, given that it can be difficult to measure greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture. Veganism is an ethically driven lifestyle in the majority of cases and is motivated by a refusal to take part in the exploitation of animals, humans and the environment.
A vegan lifestyle can be an effective catalyst for choosing eco-friendlier choices in our everyday lives beyond food, whether this is cutting plastic waste, reducing pollution by walking instead of driving to work, or buying from ethical clothing brands that use organic fabrics.
Going vegan is often fuelled by independent research into agricultural practices and environmental studies and this information can tip consumers towards sustainability and accountability. Vegans focus on making ethical and moral choices, not just in terms of the food they put on their plate, but also in the other products they buy, from clothes to beauty products and travel. When your motivation for adopting a vegan way of living is the environment, it makes sense that you will incorporate this mindset in other areas of your life too.
Sustainable consumption is about more than food
There are many aspects of the climate problem that relate to the way businesses operate, their duty of care to employees, customers and the environment, and what happens to products at the end of their lives.
A circular approach to the products we use is just as important in reducing the effects of climate change as what we put on our plates. As one leading business tackling e-waste explains, “being circular is essential to sustainability for a few reasons. Nature is being depleted and polluted at completely unsustainable rates and basic recycling is not a sufficient response; we need to reuse what has already been made and replenish nature rather than depleting it”. A circular economy, from food to fashion and tech, reduces biodiversity loss and gives nature the chance to regenerate.
Preserving our resources
Animal waste isn’t just a source of dangerous emissions in terms of manufacturing. The food system also relies on fossil fuels to prepare and transport food. Meat and dairy require a huge amount of processing before they can be consumed, while plant-based protein sources can be consumed with far less, making them more energy efficient and kinder to the environment as well as animals.
Similarly, a plant-based diet can help us preserve our water resources. The agriculture sector consumes more water than any other global industry, accounting for 70% of the world’s water use. When you couple that with the resources needed to produce fast fashion, vehicles and the latest smartphone or games console, it is easy to see just how quickly the world could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by moving to a more ethical, sustainable way of living.
Our desire to make greener choices doesn’t just come from eating a veg-based diet. While veganism may be initially motivated by empathy and compassion for animals, there is no denying that it also ties into a larger conversation about sustainability and the impact we have on the environment.
About the author: Annie Button is a freelance writer based in the UK. Annie writes for a variety of prestigious online and print publications. A vegan for 12 years, she is a member of The Vegan Society.
To learn more about how you can adopt a plant-based diet and make a positive environmental impact, take a look at our Plate Up for the Planet campaign.
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.