You’ve made a commitment to eating organic food, but how do you feel about giving up meat and eggs? It’s not only a health issue, according to researchers at the University of Chicago. A vegan diet is also much more beneficial for the planet, according to Drs. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin (right).

The food you eat is just as important as the kind of car you drive, they contend, when it comes to creating greenhouse-gas emissions, which many scientists have linked to global warming. Their study appears in the April edition of Earth Interactions.

Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to the problem, they write. Compared to a vegetarian diet, the average American diet requires the production of an extra 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. Cutting down on just a few eggs or hamburgers each week, they say, is an easy way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We neither make a value judgment, nor do we make a categorical statement,” says Dr. Eshel, an assistant professor of physical oceanography and climate in the Department of Geophysical Sciences. “We say that however close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference.”

Tune in tomorrow for more information on the study’s findings.

Photo by Lloyd DeGrane