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May 19, 2017
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The Environmental Impact Of Eating Vegan For Just One Day

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You can’t help but feel the tipping point. Steakhouses have vegan options, airport menus feature kale salad, grocers are dedicating more shelf space to plant-based items, and vegan food trucks are expanding. As a medical doctor, I have seen near miraculous improvements in health when patients adopt a vegan diet—whether they jump right in the pool or dip their toe for a while before entering.

The environmental impact of becoming a vegan.

It may be hard to measure the health and environmental effects of just a single day on a vegan diet, but my patients often experience big changes in how they look and feel after just one week. As for the environmental impact, I thank my friend Kathy Freston, who previously published data detailing what the impact would be if every U.S. citizen adopted a vegetarian diet for just one day. Keeping in mind that the impact of going full vegan would be even greater than vegetarian, as a country we would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost four months
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops that would otherwise be fed to livestock—enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year
  • 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware
  • 33 tons of antibiotics
  • 1.2 million tons of CO2, or the same amount produced by all of France
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages
  • 4.5 million tons of animal excrement, which would eliminate almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant

Yes, every single person matters.

Another method of assessing the effects of a vegan diet is to use a vegan calculator. After one month an individual will help avoid the death of 33 animals, the use of 33,000 gallons of water for animal food production, the destruction of 900 square feet of forest, the creation of an extra 600 pounds of CO2 gas, and the feeding of 1,200 pounds of grain to animals that could have fed starving communities worldwide. From these numbers it’s easy to see that even one person adopting a vegan diet for just one day has a significant impact.

Movements like Meatless Monday, which promote avoiding animal products one day a week, have grown rapidly. Founded in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the organization has grown to 44 countries and is spreading rapidly. Your decision to have a day free of eggs, dairy, and meat of all kinds is a positive step toward better health, more awareness of the suffering of farmed animals, and relief for a world burdened with feeding over 7 billion humans. The staggering impact of just one day on a vegan diet may spur you to transition to a full vegan diet, which I have followed for 40 years and have suggested to heart patients for over 30 years. You will not regret it!

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