Final Paper

Posted on December 6, 2013 by Shannon Donahue.
Categories: Uncategorized.

The Environmental Impacts of Being Vegetarian

Shannon Donahue, Austin Brooks & Amber Graham

Veggie Tales

Environmental Science 162-10

Dr. Baldwin

Fall 2013


It is important to make sure as human beings that we get enough protein in our diets and while meat is the number one source of protein in most diets we have found through our research that is it actually not very healthy for the human body, and if you are vegetarian you will most likely suffer less health complications and live an average of ten years longer. This paper illustrates the reasons in which being a vegetarian is more environmentally friendly than being an omnivore or even worse a carnivore. The reason that is it more environmentally friendly to be vegetarian is in a large part due to the beef industry. The beef industry contributes to a lot of greenhouse gas emissions as well as occupies a lot of land that could be used to grow other things. We also found through our research that in the United States nearly 70% of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals, if the world converted to a vegetarian lifestyle we could end the world hunger epidemic. This is one great reason everyone should convert their lifestyle to a vegetarian diet and while it is not realistic to imagine everyone to change their diet there are other ways that individuals can become more environmentally friendly such as participating in meatless Mondays. This paper will outline the many reasons it is more environmentally friendly to be a vegetarian as well as steps that individuals can take in their lives to be more environmentally friendly.

The Environmental Impacts of Being Vegetarian


            Have you ever wondered if it is more environmentally friendly to be a vegetarian rather than an omnivore or carnivore? This is something that is often overlooked in our society today. Many people chose to live a vegetarian lifestyle for moral, religious issues or health reasons but there are few who chose to be vegetarian based off of the environmental impact. Most people do not realize the environmental impact that the meat industry has on planet Earth. The meat industry accounts for the second largest factor in the environmental impact of the earth today and this is something that should not go overlooked any longer. This is something that is reversible though and there is a lot that the human race can do to help the environmental impacts that the meat industry has on our planet.

Literature Review

As a group, we researched vegetarianism, and found information which proved our hypothesis that being vegetarian is a more environmentally friendly option. But what are the environmental aspects of this lifestyle? One of the largest environmental problems in our nation is that of carbon emissions. “A U.N. report from just this past November found that a full 18 percent of global warming emissions come from raising chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other animals for food. That’s about 40 percent more than all the cars, trucks, airplanes, and all other forms of transport combined (13 percent). It’s also more than all the homes and offices in the world put together (8 percent)” ( On a larger scale, “A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.” (

In fact, a large majority of the problems in the environment are related to animal byproducts and meat consumption. “According to the United Nations, raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” ( Livestock farming produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. One study estimated that the farming of animals caused more emissions (18%) than the world’s entire transport system (13.5%).” (

However, cutting out, or even just down on meat consumption from your diet does not just help with lowering carbon emissions, it also helps with other environmental problems we often overlook. “According to Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic: When You’re Addicted to the Planet , eating 20 percent less meat is the equivalent of switching from a sedan to a Prius. The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom adds that going vegetarian “is one of the easiest ways to lessen your environmental impact,” because it reduces your carbon footprint, saves water, and saves land.” ( Other environmental problems include Methane and Ammonia emissions into the Earth’s surface, and the air. Methane-emitting livestock contribute massively to the ‘Greenhouse Effect’ and global warming, and then Ammonia from animal waste and agricultural fertilizers contribute to acid rain, which kills aquatic and plant life.” (

The environment is suffering, and the human race is mostly to blame for it, but it’s not a lost cause yet. From our findings, if we all did our part and gave up even just a portion of our current meat consumption, we could make a huge difference. The carbon, methane, and ammonia emissions from meat byproducts and consumption is eating away at our environment, and it’s our job to do what we can to help, and one of the easiest ways is cutting out, or really just cutting down on meat. Simple enough, right?


            Through our research we found that it is more environmentally friendly to be vegetarian. The meat industry increases the amount of greenhouse and carbon emissions into the environment, uses the majority of land in the United States and uses a lot more water than fruits, grains and vegetables need. In the United States nearly 70% percent of the grain grown is fed to farmed animals and if the world converted to a vegetarian lifestyle the world hunger epidemic would be resolved (“Environment”).

Although, it is a stretch to have hopes that all throughout the world the entire global population would convert to vegetarianism, but it is hopeful that more people will become aware of the issue at stake and have a growing concern for our environment. This is important on a global level instead of individual countries or nations; it will take the world working together. The goal is to raise awareness of the issue; because once awareness is raised people will become conscious of what is actually going on and even if they do not chose to convert to a vegetarian lifestyle the human race can decrease their consumption of meat in their diets and this will have a negative feedback on the environment and this will also allow for the world to prolong reaching their carrying capacity.


            In conclusion to this project we not only discovered that it is more environmentally friendly to live a vegetarian lifestyle but we also learned why. Many people do not realize the carbon emissions that are emitted into the atmosphere from the meat industry.  Also, there are many greenhouse gases that society should be aware of and methane is one of the higher risk greenhouse gases and this occurs naturally in cattle digestion, so the more beef people eat the more methane that will be emitted into the environment. We hope that future generations will become more aware of this issue and that education of this will be implemented into classrooms, so the human race can change their race to eat as much meat as possible, because there are many other food options and ways to get the amount of protein needed in our diets.

Works Cited

“Frequently Asked Questions.” Environmental Working Group. EWG Headquarters, n.d. Web. 2 Dec 2013. <>.

“Environment.” Choose Veg. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec 2013.


“Fight Global Warming by Going Vegetarian.”

PETA. N.p., n.d. Web.

Going Vegetarian Is One of the Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Environmental Impact

.N.p., n.d. Web.

Freston, Kathy. Eating Vegetarian Is Taking Global Warming Personally. ENVIRONMENT

Huffington Post   /, n.d. Web

Why a Vegetarian Diet Is Better For the Environment. Baltimore Monthly Meeting of Friends,

n.d. Web.

Why Going Vegetarian Is Good for the Environment. N.p., 11

June 2011. Web.






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