One of the reasons why so many people are switching to a vegetarian diet is that eating meat is bad for the environment. Or at least this is what we have been told for many years now. The carbon footprint of producing a single burger has been studied and debated for quite some time. Well, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University, this might not be the case. In fact, among the things they discovered during this study is that lettuce is actually worse for the planet than bacon.
According to professor of engineering and public policy and social and decisions sciences Paul Fischbeck, eating lettuce is three times worse in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than consuming bacon. He added that a variety of vegetables require much more resources than originally thought, including cucumbers, celery and eggplant, which are really nasty for the environment.
As part of the study, the researchers examined how the process of growing, processing, transporting, as well as selling and storing different types of food affects energy and water use, as well as green house gas emissions.
The first thing they discovered is that the best thing for the environment is to simply cut back on the calories and eat less. This, quite simply put, reduces the emissions of GHG and requires less resources. According to them the reduction in water and energy use as well as GHG emissions is around 9 percent in such a scenario.
On the other hand, eating a diet which was recently recommended by the USDA in their Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2120, will actually put added strain on the environment. In case you need a reminder, this study recommended increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and seafood. According to the CMU study, such a diet would actually result in a 39 percent increase in energy use, a 10 percent increase in water use and a 6 percent increase in GHG emissions.
It is important to point out that this study is in no way an attack on any of the lifestyles and that it was more concerned with how the new USDA guidelines would affect the environment. They point out that the USDA has done very little to actually take this into consideration, which is definitely something that could have been avoided.
Also, we would like to point out that the study was not secretly funded by anyone with an interest in the meat industry or something like that.