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Veganism & climate change, are they linked?

The good news: wine has 1.0 CO2 per kg (v low)
The bad news: global livestock accounts for ~20% of human-induced global greenhouse gas emissions.

That means the meat and dairy industry creates more CO2 than ALL emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and other transport put together.

First up we should say not everyone at BYBI has a vegan diet, and if you don’t that’s okay. We do nearly always use vegan skincare, beauty and body products. We’re all on a learning journey, informing ourselves with the facts so that we can make the best life and diet decisions based on the very latest science. We aren’t here to judge, only to inform.

At BYBI sustainability is one of the main reasons why we exist as a brand. Creating low impact products has become a literal obsession for us and being a vegan brand is a crucial part of that. As we witness the Australian fires and the catastrophic damage caused to animals, livelihoods and nature it’s challenging not to feel eco-anxiety, and feel really quite helpless as to what society can do as a collective to stop the impact of the fires and Climate Change as a whole. It turns out having a vegan diet and making vegan purchasing decisions across the board significantly benefits the planet. This is something we can actively do to reduce emissions and the impact of Climate Change.

The CO2 diet culprits and heroes:

The average CO2 from different diets



On average daily meat diets are responsible for ~2.5x more CO2 than vegan diets, and daily vegetarian diets emit around ~1kg more CO2 than vegan diets. Food for thought, right?

Why is reducing our carbon emissions quickly so important?

According to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (where Einstein used to do lots of thinking);

Declining carbon emissions after 2020 is a necessity for meeting the Paris temperature limit of well below 2 degrees”.

Three illustrative scenarios for spending the same budget of 600 Gt (gigatonnes) of CO2, with emissions peaking in 2016 (green), 2020 (blue) and 2025 (red), and an alternative with 800 Gt (shown as the dashed line).

The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), explains that if countries fail to act, the world will face catastrophic changes- sea levels will rise, ocean temperatures and acidity will increase and our ability to grow crops, such as rice, maize and wheat, would be in danger.

What’s causing the livestock CO2?

A recent study by GRAIN, found that if the planet’s 35 largest meat and dairy companies continue down their current path, the livestock sector could be responsible for 80% of the allowable greenhouse gas budget by 2050. The greenhouse gases emitted from livestock are caused by several high impact areas.

  1. Methane is produced from livestock. Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 30% more potent than CO2. One cow produces between 70-120kg of methane a year. Globally there are ~1.5 billion cattle. All livestock methane makes up 37% of methane emissions resulting from human activity.
  2. The food and water needed to feed animals. It takes 25kg of grain and roughly 15,000 litres of water to produce just 1kg of beef.
  3. The land and therefore deforestation needed to farm animals. A staggering ~30% of the Earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming. The recent Amazon fires were purposely lit for this very reason. It’s also worth noting that as food and water are scarce across the world this is an inefficient use of resources.

Unfortunately, there’s more bad news when it comes to meat production. It used to take 5 years for cows to reach a mature weight, but it's now possible to take just 18 months due to growth hormones and antibiotics. This creates thousands of tonnes of urine and manure, with chemicals needed to breakdown the waste. This waste collects in lagoons and runs into soil, staying in our environment forever. 

This picture of several farms was made by stitching together hundreds of high-resolution images from publicly accessible satellite imaging software.

We hear you...the livestock industry’s impact on Climate Change is shocking but you really like cheese and chocolate. AH. 

We think the best way to approach any pro-climate diet changes is to focus on where you can make the biggest, most impactful reduction in CO2. It has to work for you in the long-term. If you love chocolate but feel bad about the dairy? Opt for vegan choc. Love meat, but care about the climate? Opt for lower impact meats or try vegan meat alternatives 2-3 times a week instead.

Already vegan? Kudos.

 

Data taken from a recent academic study analysed the diets of 55,504 participants. Download the full academic report here.

Sources: IPCC, Potsdam Institute, The NY Times, The Independent, theconversation, phys.org, Futureearth, Research gate report (dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK). 

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