Beans can save us!
Beans alone can make the big difference in the global warming crisis. Recently, a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University calculated just what would happen if every American made one dietary change: substituting beans for beef. They found that if everyone were willing and able to do that America could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals.
A relatively small, single food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact—more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than reducing showering! Yes, those are still good things to do, but switching to beans has a much bigger impact on greenhouse gas emissions. And, as an extra benefit, the shift would free up 42% of US cropland.
While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the “beans for beef” scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.
Shifting dietary patterns for environmental benefits has long been advocated. Many researchers have highlighted the need for changes to food consumption in order to achieve needed greenhouse gas reductions. So far, food consumption has not been anchored in climate change policy to the same extent as energy production and usage, nor has it been considered within the context of achieving greenhouse gas targets to a level where tangible outputs are available.
Of course, as much good as switching beans for beef could do, the environment would benefit much, much more from a switch to an entirely plant-based diet. Learn more about how a plant-based diet can help not only global warming, but water pollution, soil erosion and ecological destruction.