The debate over which diet is environment healthy is an everlasting one. Food consumption, being one of the leading factors impacting the environmental cycle and climate change, I have chosen to explore the scenario. Vegetarian diets are reported to be healthy options since most plant-sourced foods are less resource intense and taxing on the environment than the production of animal-derived foods, particularly meat and dairy from ruminants. But anyone looking to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet for environmental reasons may definitely want to consider whether there are some plant-based foods that also come with a heavy price. In order to resolve the diet-environment-health trilemma, are population-level dietary changes essential? We’re increasingly encouraged to eat less meat to tackle climate change. What about all those fruits, vegetables and staples crossing the globe – can we really label them as more sustainable than eating meat? Also, a question remains if switching to a vegetarian diet to cut emissions caused by meat production is as sustainable as one might think?
A “sustainable diet” is defined as a pattern “with low environmental impact which contributes to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. To maintain planetary health, human activities must limit the use of Earth's resources within finite boundaries and avoid environmental degradation. At present, food systems account for a substantial use of natural resources and contribute considerably to climate change, degradation of land, water use, and other impacts, which in turn threaten human health through food insecurity. Additionally, current dietary patterns, rich in animal products and excessive in calories, are detrimental to both population and planetary health. The influence of the global trade of food on local diets and cultural choices has further exploded over recent years. Many are conscious of what they eat – both from a health and environmental perspective. But what is the impact of this?
I propose to probe into the various cascading and interlinked aspects associated with the current topic of vegetarianism with respect to its environmental impact. Despite all the pros and cons that would be discussed, small changes in the diet coupled with awareness can have large impacts on the results. What might seem quite clear is that while plant-based foods and meat substitutes can be far better for the environment than livestock production as a whole, if we really want to make a difference to the environment we need to take care about what we choose to replace meat with? I also propose to cross validate and discuss which diet has lesser carbon footprints. In the same note, it is also day-to-day food waste – both at home and in supply chains – that can make any diet unsustainable whether you choose to be vegan, vegetarianism, a meat-eater, or a combination of these. Different preservation formats can also be resorted to reduce food waste to zero.
I have considered one scholarly article on this topic: “Vegetarian Diets: Planetary Health and Its Alignment with Human Health”, by Ujue Fresan, Joan Sabate et al., published in a supplement to Advances in Nutrition.Professor Archer says, “The challenge for the ethical eater is to choose the diet that causes the least deaths and environmental damage”. Reducing the Environmental Impact of Dietary Choice: Perspectives from a Behavioural and Social Change Approach” and encyclopaedia sources and magazines have also been considered to explore into the details to reach an amicable conclusion about a diet that is optimal to the environment too.