Sustainability | Renewable Energy

6 Environmental Benefits of Vegetarianism

6 Environmental Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet

By Beth Rush


Climate change is transforming the planet — summers are hotter, winters are colder, and natural resources deplete faster. How can an ordinary citizen help solve this massive problem? One way is by switching to a plant-based diet. Find out the seven environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet and how you can help save the environment.

1. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

One of the most impactful environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet is you help mitigate climate change. 

Livestock farming massively contributes to greenhouse gas emissions or GHGs that cast a nest in the atmosphere to trap heat, increasing the planet’s temperature. Agriculture was responsible for 10% of total GHGs in the U.S. in 2022.

It’s a massive sector and your effort to skip meat to minimize this problem can feel like a drop in the deep well. However, even small collective contributions snowball into instrumental changes. 

Giving your favorite steak or fried chicken a permanent pass allows you to reduce climate change. It may also inspire others around you to do the same. 

2. Promote Sustainable Food Systems

The planet’s natural resources are capped and the indicators they’re running out are apparent. Temperatures are warmer because trees are cut down, and soon, the sea will run out of fish. That’s why scientists have started to grow lab meats to address the overdemand yet insufficient supply of these resources. However, the planet needs more solutions to recover. If people don’t do something about these finite raw materials, they’ll eventually dry out. 

Vegetarians help preserve these natural resources by choosing sustainable alternatives to delay their depletion. For example, most humans rely on animals for protein, a substance essential for many body functions. Women consume 5 ounces of it daily, while men need between 5.5 and 6 ounces, mainly sourced from chicken, fish, pork, eggs, and beef.  

Vegetarians help solve the ecological problem by replacing meat with beans, chickpeas, broccoli, nuts, oats, soymilk, and other plant-based sources. These foods have excellent nutritional profiles and are packed with vitamins, fiber, minerals, and essential compounds.

Eating more vegetables can reduce reliance on meat and stretch the life span of many virgin resources for a sustainable food system. 

3. Conserve Tons of Water

Animal agriculture wastes an enormous amount of freshwater, an already scarce resource. Growing crops for cows, goats, or chickens and cleaning dirty factory farms and slaughterhouses waste tons. 

In America alone, the industry consumes 36-74 trillion gallons of water annually. Moreover, animal farms generate massive waste that pollutes waterways and the air.

Instead of skipping showers to conserve water, going vegetarian has a bigger impact on reducing expenditure. By eliminating meat on your plate, you directly help preserve this resource. It’s one less animal to feed or waste water on. Imagine the cumulative outcome if more people switch to a plant-based diet or at least reduce the amount of meat they eat every week. You help lower the demand for it by consuming vegetables produced with much less water required to grow. 

4. Minimize Pollution

People must be aware of the notable environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet when mitigating air and water pollution.

Livestock operations generate air pollutants by emitting ammonia, methane, and nitrous oxide. This issue has worsened after the number of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) or agricultural facilities increased by 20%. In a study, researchers discovered that the rise of ammonia concentrations contributing to air pollution is correlated with the expansion of CAFOs, putting nearby residents’ health at risk. 

Where do vegetarians fit in the solution? Plant-based agriculture produces less pollution than livestock farming. It has zero manure that pollutes ponds, rivers, and lakes and generates fewer emissions. Moreover, plants typically have a shorter supply chain than meat, so less transportation and refrigeration are required before they reach consumers. Choosing to eat vegetables sourced from your local farmers mitigates water, land, and air pollution.

5. Preserve Biodiversity

The forests are home to diverse wildlife, including birds, bees, butterflies, and many other species. However, large-scale animal farming has converted thousands of acres of green, healthy woodlands into bald grounds for cattle grazing. 

Agriculture accounts for at least 75% of deforestation, contributing to many environmental problems. Clearing forested land equates to more than 16.4% lost trees every day, accelerating climate change. 

As a vegetarian, you can help by decreasing the demand for land-intensive animal farming and preserving the habitats for diverse species. Instead of cutting down trees and plants, farmers will feel more responsible for cultivating the lands and nurturing the soil to produce better harvests for everyone. The environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet involve you directly in the sustainability movement.

6. Mitigate Habitat Destruction

Everything you see in the forest, from the smallest plant to the tallest trees, is instrumental in the animals’ survival. Each time loggers cut trees to convert land to an animal farm, the planet loses 137 species of plants, insects, and animals. Some wildlife migrate or relocate, but many are permanently lost. 

Trees are important for thriving biodiversity as they shelter birds, bees, and butterflies. Destroying them harms the living creatures that help maintain life on the planet.   

By making your nutritional lifestyle healthier through plants, you minimize the destruction of these natural habitats. It’s a step forward to stop deforestation and support wildlife conservation. 

Being a Vegetarian Can Help Save the Planet


If you strongly feel about contributing more to save the earth from climate change, consider switching to a plant-based diet. The environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet encompass solutions to mitigate pollution, conserve limited resources, and stop habitat destruction for wildlife. 

Plant consumption doesn’t raise cholesterol levels or elevate risk factors for various health conditions. Removing meat from your diet may be challenging, so start by cutting down your consumption to once or twice a week if you eat every day. Vegetables are healthier and give you as much energy as meat. Be an environmental hero by choosing to eat clean foods.

About the author: Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, where she covers topics like the power of climate consciousness at all stages of education. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!


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