There’s no two ways about it: what you eat impacts the environment in a big way, especially when you eat meat and dairy. That also means that a few small, totally doable diet swaps (we’re not saying you have to go vegan!) can also help protect the environment, big time.
Meat and dairy products require tons of pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow enough feed for the animals, which poisons the environment; they require a hefty amount of fuel to get the products to market (and they aren’t shipped around in solar-powered trucks); and they require lots of water for the animals and the processing facilities, which takes water away from other things, like growing veggies.
But the other side of that coin is that reducing the amount of meat and dairy you eat can have a big impact on the environment as well. Try these five easy diet swaps:
Get On Board with Meatless Mondays
Or Tuesdays, or alternate Thursdays—whatever works for you! According to the Environmental Working Group, for every family of four that skips meat and dairy for one day, it’s as good for the environment as not driving your car for five weeks. That’s huge! And with 52 weeks a year, that can really add up.
Eat Less Processed Meat
It’s not pretty to think about, but bologna and hot dogs have to go through a lot more… stuff to get to your grocery store shelf than a chuck roast does. And the processes those processed meats go through requires lots of water and lots of unsavory chemicals, like nitrogen and ammonia, that gets dumped back into waterways. Skip the SPAM and stick to real meat.
Choosing chicken and turkey over beef reduces the environmental impact of your meat choices, because beef is the biggest pollutor when it comes to factory farms. If you eat one fewer burger a week, it has the same environmental benefit as hanging your clothes on the line (and not using your dryer) for half a year!
Stick With Organic
Certified organic, grass-fed and free range are all better choices when it comes to picking meat, because choosing organic will reduce your exposure to pesticides, which can accumulate in fat. And, raising meat in more traditional ways (ie: not a feed lot) is less of a strain on the environment.
Use It All
It’s always a good idea to avoid food waste, but it’s even more important with meat and dairy. Don’t buy more than you need, learn to store it properly, and get creative to use up every last bit.