How to Reduce Your Impact on Earth, According to Science

What's the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth?

Feb 4, 2019

(Dmitry Demkin / Shutterstock.com

Coffee without caffeine, cream without fat, beer without alcohol, love without its dangerous moments
and well…

Things that promise deeply satisfying experiences but don’t come with their usually bad side effects have become entirely normal. Why is this dangerous? Because it gets us to think that we can have our cake and eat it too when it comes to our planet.

In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest dilemmas of our generation: we know that we have to reduce our impact on the planet but we seem to be just unable to change our lifestyle. Can we please have both? Hot showers, far-away holidays, shiny new gadgets and road trips with friends, in short – a convenient and fulfilling life while also making an active contribution to preserve our biosphere?

Or should we go back to our caves if we truly want to make a difference? So, where do you start if you care for our world but also want to keep some of your guilty lifestyle choices?

Luckily, two scientists had the same question and found the single biggest way to make your lifestyle more environmentally friendly. What if I told you you could drive the family van, or jet around the world, and still have a lower environmental impact than your buddy with a wind turbine?

Researchers at Oxford University recently completed the most comprehensive analysis to date on the single biggest way you can reduce your impact on Earth. Let’s break it down.

What do you get when researchers from one of the world’s top universities, and one best centres for agricultural research team up to solve a problem? 4 years ago Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek started looking into agriculture’s global environmental impact. And in June 2018, their breakthrough report revealed how much damage farming does to our planet.

The study analyzed 40,000 farms across 119 countries, and it focused on 40 food products that comprise 90% of the human diet. Their findings were simply shocking. Take beef and peas for example. Both are a source of protein, though one is meat and the other is plant.

The study shows that even the lowest impact beef requires 36 times more land and creates 6 times more greenhouse gases than peas! In fact, in your diet, meat and dairy only account for 18% of your calories and 37% of your protein, and yet 83% of our farmland is dedicated to meat and dairy.

So if rearing livestock is the single biggest source of carbon emissions in the world – not to mention the greatest contributor to wildlife extinction – what would happen if we all cut back on meat and dairy? According to Joseph Poole, who led the report’s research, a vegan diet helps a lot more than reducing air travel or buying an electric car.

Don’t believe it? Ditching your car only reduces greenhouse gases, but ditching meat and dairy cuts down on acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.

Fine, but giving up meat and dairy is hard to do. Yes it is! But in the UK alone, the number of people adopting a vegan diet has shot up 360% in the past decade!

And I know you can do it too! So here are some tips to get you started.

Start by reducing how much meat and dairy you consume every week. Did you know that nearly 2/3 of your protein already comes from plants? Once you get used to the whole, less meat, less dairy thing, you can try moving to the next round. Already, there are plenty of companies and products that are committed to animal-free alternatives.

And for the products you can’t find, most grocery stores or pharmacies carry a range of supplements that will help you keep your healthy diet with a clean conscience! So there you have it. A breakthrough report, with breathtaking research, but one clear, simple message: less animal products, lower environmental impact.

So, are you up for the challenge? Just take it slow. Add a few more nuts, beans and grains into your diet, and you’re already off to a good start.

It’s easier than you think, if you keep an open mind. Besides, there are other benefits to going animal-free.

Here’s a tip from me to you: request a vegetarian meal on flights that serve food, and you’ll get your meal before everybody else.

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INSH is a group of insanely curious individuals who are inspired by the beautiful world that we live in. The stories they tell blow their minds and they hope that will blow your mind, too.

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