Could your veggie burger habit actually be helping to save the planet? We’ve theorized for some time now that plant-based diets are easier on the environment, especially greenhouse gas emissions. But a new study from Oxford University researchers takes this idea one step further: The widespread adaptation of plant-based diets could actually save millions of lives and trillions of dollars in the fight against global warming.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America journal, estimates that a worldwide switch to plant-based diets could save at least 7.3 million lives by 2050 (8 million with a vegan diet), and cut carbon emissions by 63 percent (up to 70 percent for a vegan diet). In addition, such a dramatic change in diets worldwide could save humans $1 trillion annually in decreased healthcare costs alone.
Researchers also acknowledged that three-quarters of these benefits would occur in developing countries where emergency health issues are keenest.
"We do not expect everybody to become vegan," said lead author Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Program on the Future of Food in a statement. “What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment.”
Achieving these changes wouldn’t be easy: We’d have to increase our fruit and vegetable consumption worldwide by 25 percent, while simultaneously cutting our red meat consumption by 56 percent.
Want to get started with saving the planet? Check out The Daily Meal’s best vegan recipes.