Vegetarian, ‘healthy’ diet more harmful to environment

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015,17:21 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Washington | Contrary to common assumption, eating a vegetarian diet may contribute more to climate change than consuming non-vegetarian foods, a new study has claimed.

According to the research from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), consuming fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per calorie.

Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon, said Paul Fischbeck, a professor at CMU. Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think.

Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken, he added. Researchers studied the food supply chain to determine how the obesity epidemic in the US is affecting the environment.

Specifically, they examined how growing, processing and transporting food, food sales and service, and household storage and use take a toll on resources in the form of energy use, water use and GHG emissions.

On one hand, the results showed that getting our weight under control and eating fewer calories, has a positive effect on the environment and reduces energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by approximately nine per cent.

However, eating the recommended ‘healthier’ foods a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood increased the environmental impact in all three categories – energy use went up by 38 per cent, water use by 10 per cent and GHG emissions by 6 per cent.

There is a complex relationship between diet and the environment. What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment, said Michelle Tom from CMU. The findings were published in the journal Environment Systems and Decisions.