The Carbon Footprint of a Vegan Diet vs. a Meat-Based Diet in 2024


The food we eat has a huge impact on the environment, and the carbon footprint of our diets is a big part of that impact. A vegan diet is often touted as being more environmentally friendly than a meat-based diet, but is that really the case? In this post, we’ll explore the carbon footprint of both diets and see how they compare.

What is a Carbon Footprint?

Before we dive into the carbon footprints of vegan and meat-based diets, let’s first define what a carbon footprint is. A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, that are released into the atmosphere as a result of a particular activity, such as driving a car or eating food. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

The Carbon Footprint of a Vegan Diet vs. a Meat-Based Diet: A Comparison

This chart compares the carbon footprint of a vegan diet with that of a meat-based diet. It shows the greenhouse gas emissions associated with various food items, providing valuable information to those looking to reduce their environmental impact through dietary choices.

Meat-Based DietPlant-Based Diet
Daily CO2 Emissions15.8 kg4.0 kg
Land Use17,000 sq. ft.1,200 sq. ft.
Water Use2,500 gallons500 gallons
Methane Emissions390 kg CO2e20 kg CO2e
Note: CO2e stands for “carbon dioxide equivalent,” which is a way of expressing the total greenhouse gas emissions of a particular activity or food product, taking into account all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

The Carbon Footprint of a Meat-Based Diet

Meat-based diets have a much larger carbon footprint than vegan diets. The production of meat requires much more energy, water, and land than the production of plant-based foods. In addition, the animals raised for meat produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, through their digestive processes.

The Carbon Footprint of a Vegan Diet

Vegan diets have a significantly smaller carbon footprint than meat-based diets. Plant-based foods require less energy, water, and land to produce than animal-based foods. Additionally, the production of plant-based foods doesn’t produce methane or other greenhouse gases in the same way that animal agriculture does.

Food Item Vs. CO2 Emissions

This table shows that plant-based proteins such as lentils, chickpeas, and tofu have a much lower carbon footprint than animal-based proteins like beef and cheese. It’s important to note that these values can vary depending on the farming practices used to grow and produce the food. However, as a general rule, a vegan diet has a lower carbon footprint than a meat-based diet.

Food ItemCO2 Emissions (kgCO2e/kg)
Soy Milk3.2
Chicken (conventional)6.9
Cheese (cow’s milk)13.5
Beef (conventional)27.0

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint in 2024

Regardless of whether you follow a vegan or meat-based diet, there are steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. Choosing locally sourced foods, reducing food waste, and eating seasonally can all make a difference. Additionally, incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet, even if you don’t go fully vegan, can help reduce your carbon footprint.

In conclusion, a vegan diet has a much smaller carbon footprint than a meat-based diet. By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, we can all make a positive impact on the environment. So, whether you’re a seasoned vegan or just starting to explore plant-based eating, keep in mind the impact your food choices have on the planet.

Sources: Carbon Footprint Of A Vegan Diet

  • Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.
  • Scarborough, P., Appleby, P. N., Mizdrak, A., Briggs, A. D., Travis, R. C., Bradbury, K. E., & Key, T. J. (2014). Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans in the UK. Climatic Change, 125(2), 179-192.
  • US Department of Agriculture. (2019). Agricultural Statistics 2019.
  • International Panel on Climate Change. (2019). Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

These sources provide reliable and up-to-date information on the environmental impacts of different types of diets, including the carbon footprint of meat-based and plant-based diets.

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