Explainer: Why Is a Plant-Based Diet Better for the Planet?

By Faran Krentcil, Fact checked by Jessica Ochoa

2 min read

Plant Based Meal

Here's why plant-based diets are good for you and good for the planet: Because in the words of the award-winning food writer Laurie Colwin, “No one who cooks, cooks alone.” The food we eat is connected to our memories, our heritage, and of course, our bodies. And the benefits of a vegan plant-based diet are connected to the wider world, too.

You’ve probably noticed that at Wild Elements, we talk a lot about plant-based food, and we’re obsessed with finding the best vegan cheeses, vegan ice creams, and even vegan bacon on the planet. In a (sustainably harvested) nutshell, here’s why plant-based food is better for the environment:

  • A plant-based diet takes up to 50% less water to produce. (Source)
  • A plant-based diet can help stop deforestation. Just from 2001-2015, over 45 million hectares of forest were cut down to make room for cattle pastures, resulting in 36% of deforestation worldwide—much of it endangered rainforest. (Source)
  • In one year, the livestock industry uses as much energy as the transportation industry. Most of us can’t just eliminate car travel, especially if we live in areas without reliable or safe public transportation. But all of us can swap at least some animal protein for plant protein! (Source)
  • A plant-based diet doesn’t just reduce carbon emissions; it also takes carbon out of the atmosphere. That’s because if we plant more crops instead of using land for grazing, we’ll increase plant density worldwide. (Source)

A diet with more plants is also better for you. That’s because…

  • Plant-based diets slow signs of aging and help prevent wrinkles. (Source, Source)
  • Plant-based diets reduce the severity and duration of PMS. (Source: Clinical Study)
  • Plant-based meals reduce cardiovascular issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. (Source: Harvard Health.)
  • Plant-based diets help prevent the most common types of cancer. (Source)
  • Plant-based meals strengthen your immune system in ways that animal protein can’t. Plants have complex vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants that absorb directly into your body. These plant compounds help fight disease and strengthen your body’s ability to rebound from stress, illness, and injury. (Source)
  • Plant-based diets have more fiber, so they’re better for your digestive system. Plant-based diets are what to eat to stop bloating. Plant-based diets are what to eat to help stop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Plant-based diets also help boost your colon health. (Source)

Does this mean you need to run screaming from your nearest Shake Shack? It does not. But if you can commit to eating a vegan diet for just one day a week, you can reduce your carbon food footprint by 14%. And if we all did that? The Environmental Defense Fund says we’d save the carbon equivalent of 500,000 cars in the US alone

(And we’d still get to eat Ben & Jerry’s, so, win-win.)