The 2020 Veganism Trend and How It Helps the Environment
— Boston, MA
With the pandemic approaching a year this March, people have had serious time to think about their current lifestyle and desired changes for the future. Health trends have been on the rise, and this includes the trend of veganism. As early as May 2020, the Plant Based Foods Association compiled data on the sale of plant-based foods. From the height of the buying craze of mid-March to May, plant-based food sales increased by 90%, and plant-based meat products spiked by 148%. Despite pandemic restrictions, more vegan restaurants have opened than closed during Covid-19. While much of this change is due to the rising popularity in food trends and dieting, the vegan lifestyle is also a choice for those who are more conscious about sustainability.
Veganism is highly sustainable primarily because it bypasses the need to raise livestock. Livestock and its byproducts are responsible for at least 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide, in addition to the 220 pounds of methane emitted by a single cow per year, totaling 51% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gasses contribute to various climate change factors, such as air pollution, rising sea-levels, and altered animal migration patterns. These effects are catalyzed by the greenhouse gasses’ ability to absorb infrared radiation, trapping heat within the atmosphere, causing climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4), and ammonia (NH3) emissions can last in the atmosphere for up to 150 years and contribute to ozone-layer deterioration ecosystem acidification.
In addition to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, raising animals requires an immense amount of land. Livestock farms cover about ⅓ of the world’s land, making livestock the leading cause for deforestation. The process of raising livestock also contributes to major waste levels, and its greatest waste crime concerns water use. The amount of water used by private owners in the US is 5% of total consumption, while animal agriculture’s water consumption is 55%. A study showed that a vegan diet is better at reducing water waste, fertilizer and soil use, with just one day of eating vegetarian. A vegan saves 4,164 liters of water, 20 kilograms of crops, 2.8 square meters of land, 10 kilograms of CO2, and the life of one animal, in just one day.
With all of these factors in mind, it is no wonder why people have begun to rethink the sustainability of their eating habits. This has caused the rise in popularity of vegetarian substitutions, showing that burgers are not the only food facing popular substitution. Both restaurants and individuals are exploring other options, such as vegan cheeses, plant-based milk, fishless fish, and so much more, leading to this vegetarian revolution. Whether people have sustainability in mind or are simply hopping on the vegan wagon, it is clear that this spike in plant-based diets is something that can benefit the earth far beyond the health of one human individual.
Davidovitch, Nadav; Dopelt, Keren; Pnina, Radon. Environmental Effects of the Livestock Industry. US National Library of Medicine. April 16, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6518108/
Starostinetskaya, Anna. Interest in Veganism Hits An All Time High in 2020, Google Trends Report Shows. vegnews.com. September 15, 2020. https://vegnews.com/2020/9/interest-in-veganism-hits-all-time-high-in-2020-google-trends-report-shows
Nunez, Chrsitina. Carbon Dixide Levels Are At A Record High. National Geographic. May 13, 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/greenhouse-gases