In our quest for a sustainable future, it’s vital to address the ‘planet over profit’ dilemma, where large corporations exploit resources at the expense of the environment. One step towards a sustainable solution lies in the choices we make about what we eat. In this article, we’ll explore vegetarianism and sustainable food choices to address the pressing issue of prioritising our planet over profit.

Reduce your carbon footprint:
Livestock production is responsible for a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the livestock sector is responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with methane being the largest contributor. A standard Western meat-based diet produces about 7.2 kg of CO₂ equivalent per day, a vegetarian diet 3.8 kg and a vegan diet 2.9 kg. If the world went vegetarian, it would save nearly 8 billion tonnes of CO₂e. This is 60% of all food emissions, which is 13.7 billion tonnes of CO₂e. As a vegetarian, you can reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to global efforts to combat climate change.

Efficient use of land and water and conservation of biodiversity:
Livestock production requires large amounts of land and water for grazing and growing feed crops. It takes about 2 to 20 hectares of land and 15,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of beef, but only 0.01 to 0.05 hectares and 1,000 litres to produce one kilogram of wheat. According to the World Resources Institute, agriculture, including livestock, covers about 40 percent of the Earth’s surface, and as a result the world has lost about 5 million hectares of forest every year since 2000. 41 percent of deforestation is for beef and 18 per cent for palm oil and soy. If the world went meatless, we wouldn’t have to feed billions of animals, saving a huge amount of land and water needed to grow food. For example, soybeans are one of the most widely grown crops in the world, but nearly 80% of the world’s soybeans are used to feed livestock. The expansion of agriculture, especially livestock, has led to the loss of natural habitats and a decline in biodiversity. Switching to a plant-based diet can help stop deforestation and protect biodiversity by using land and water more efficiently.

Being a vegetarian is one of the best ways to save our planet, but there are other things we can do. We can think about what we eat, whether we are vegetarian or not.

Sustainable food choices:
Smart Food Choices chooses locally grown and organic fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. It reduces carbon emissions and energy wasted in transport and avoids the environmental damage caused by global corporations in the mass production of food. Including plant-based proteins such as pulses, tofu and tempeh in your diet will help. These alternatives have a significantly lower environmental impact than meat production and contribute to a more sustainable food system. If you eat seafood, consider options that are sustainably sourced. You can choose foods with certifications such as MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) to ensure you are supporting responsible fishing and aquaculture practices. These choices can be consistent with a vegetarian diet and support sustainable farming practices.

Consumer advocacy:
It is also important to support brands that prioritise ethical and environmentally friendly practices. Look for certifications such as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance or USDA Organic to ensure your purchases are in line with sustainability principles. You can encourage transparency within the industry by choosing products from companies that openly share information about their supply chains, sourcing practices and environmental initiatives. Consumer demand for transparency can drive positive environmental change in companies.

In addressing the ‘planet over profit’ challenge, adopting a vegetarian lifestyle and making sustainable food choices are emerging as solutions. By recognising the environmental impact of our diets, we can collectively contribute to a more sustainable future. Let’s put our planet before profit by making conscious choices about what we eat and promote a greener, healthier world for generations to come.

Written by – Beomki Jeong