7 min read

Environmental Benefits of Plant-Based Diets

If the health benefits of going plant-based aren’t enough to sway you away from some smoky bacon, maybe the environmental benefits are. And this does not mean having to go full vegetarian, but choosing small steps toward a plant-based diet can have a huge impact. 

Climate change has been a social, political, and economic issue that we’ve all witnessed the effects of. Whether it’s the price of avocados, higher electric bills, or damage to your home from natural disasters, you can see climate change’s effects all around us. 

The damage will only grow more significant as time goes on and processes remain the same.

One way that we can help the environment is by partially or entirely making the switch from animal to plant-based foods. By reducing the demand for meat and increasing the normalization of vegan foods, we can see some dramatic changes in the trajectory of our planet. The environmental benefits of plant-based diets are extensive.

Environmental benefits of plant-based diets by Soylent

Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

What we eat is one of the most significant contributors to our individual carbon footprint; therefore, one of the greatest benefits of a vegan diet is that it lessens the harm we do to the planet.

If you’re looking to save the planet, going vegan is the most concise approach to take. A study from Oxford University identified going vegan as the “single biggest way” to reduce our carbon footprint, shrinking it up to 73%.

When it comes to producing animal products like meat and milk, greenhouse gasses are involved every step of the way. The machinery used to destroy forests, the production of animal feed, and the immense waste generated by farm animals; all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Big picture, the process of raising and killing animals is much more carbon-intensive than growing and harvesting plants for food. Every plant-based meal you eat reduces your carbon footprint. The more individuals adopt a plant-based diet, the fewer greenhouse gas emissions we produce and the less contribution to climate change.

birds eye view of an industrial area

Reduces Energy Consumption

Meat requires a lot of processing to get to our plates, and meat processing involves a lot of energy. With an equal amount of energy, you can either produce one pound of beef or keep your fridge running for a whole month.

Plant-based protein sources require much less processing and are therefore much more energy-efficient than meat. A shift towards more energy-efficient foods can dramatically reduce energy use and put our planet in a better position.

Tip: A plant-based food list can be found on the Soylent blog.

Conserves Water

Agriculture consumes more water than any other major global industry, accounting for 70% of global water useA study published in Water Resources Research estimates that 41% of the water used for agriculture goes toward growing livestock feed for the meat industry, not watering luscious crops.

Less demand for meat products means fewer animals raised and fewer animals to feed. Switching to a vegan diet reduces your individual water footprint by up to 55%. Going vegan could prove essential to conserving our global freshwater supply for generations to come.

Protects Rainforests, Land, and Soil

Raising animals, growing feed, and every other process required to meet the current demand for animal products take up about one-third of the Earth’s landmass. When forests are cleared for raising animals, the carbon stored in forests gets released into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change.

image of forest horizon

In comparison, the Good Food Institute estimates that plant-based meats from brands like Beyond Meat Company, Impossible Foods, and Lightlife use up to 99% less land than conventional meat. Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that global farmland use could reduce by 75% if everyone went vegan. This reduction is equal to the size of the US, China, Australia, and the EU combined. 

If humans’ protein needs were met strictly by soy foods, deforestation would decline by 94 percent.

Not only would plant-based eating preserve our forests and free up our lands, but it would also lessen the damage to the ecosystem below the surface: our soils. Our activities are making healthy soils disappear. Without healthy soil, we can’t grow crops. Without crops, we don’t survive. 

If soil degradation continues at its current rate, we could experience a “food production shortfall of 25% by 2050.”

When cattle are constrained to one area for grazing, the nutrient-rich topsoil quickly erodes, making the soil unsuitable for plants to grow. The cattle don’t only survive on wild vegetation; farmers need to grow corn and soy for animal feed. To produce as much feed as cheaply as possible, farmers often overwork the soil; they don’t give the soil enough time to recover and restore its nutrients. 

This process may result in a larger immediate harvest, but the soil quickly becomes unusable; this is a form of land degradation. Reducing demand for meat and making the switch to plant-based foods allows the soil to heal. If we stop contributing to the problem, we can let environments recover from degradation.

Prevents Species Extinction

More than just trees and soil are affected when forests are cleared to raise cattle. Forests are the home of tens of thousands of animal species. When deforestation occurs, animal species lose out on their habitats, and the ecosystem of resources falls apart. 

Without a stable environment, populations struggle to survive and slowly die out. According to The Human League Organization, the habitat destruction caused by deforestation drives 135 plant, animal, and insect species to extinction every day. That’s 50,000 species per year, lost forever.

Animal agriculture (farming land) is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. By switching to a plant-based diet and reducing the demand for meat, you can take away the meat industry’s incentive to destroy forests and the species they host. We need biodiversity to survive.

image of parrots

Combats World Hunger

Within our current food system, 8.9% of the world’s population suffers from undernourishment and food insecurity. That’s 690 million people who may not know where their next meal is coming from. To make that percentage more real for you, note that about 8% of the population has blue eyes.

With soil degradation, deforestation, and climate change continuing under the realm of “business as usual” for global food production, more and more people are losing access to the food (healthy or not) they need to survive.

Without the deforestation, soil degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions it takes to produce meat and other animal-based products, we may be able to slow down climate change and secure our global food supply. With healthier land and more of it, we can grow nutritious, plant-based proteins to feed more people and alleviate world hunger.

person shopping at a farmers' market

Accessibility With Soylent

​Soylent envisions a world where every person can afford and access all the nutrition and calories they need. This vision can only come to fruition if people, alongside brands, work to change the status quo.

Soylent makes complete and sustainable nutrition accessible to all by using plant proteins. Soylent puts sustainability first by ensuring our products have the lowest environmental impact of all protein shakes on the market. Our sustainability comes from our key ingredient: Soy protein isolate.

  • ​​Soy protein creates a 25% less negative impact on the environment than other plant-based proteins.
  • Soy farming produces 334% more usable protein per acre compared to whey (dairy-based protein).
  • We use 1,484 fewer gallons of water to produce 1 pound of Soybeans vs. 1 pound of conventionally farmed beef.

By creating a nutritious and delicious product that’s also sustainable we prove that global food justice is achievable. Switching to a plant-based diet can feel overwhelming, so start with baby steps; swap your next meal for a more environmentally-friendly option; Soylent.

If we all work together, we can create the sustainable future we deserve.