Vegan Calculator: What’s The Environmental Impact Of Going Vegan?

What’s the real impact of eating meat?

No matter whether you’ve been a vegan a long time or are starting to have an interest in a plant-based diet, the fact is that meat produces a lot of waste. There is a high environmental cost with commercially farmed meat.

So, how much do vegans save? The estimated impact of eating meat every day costs 1 animal life, 1,100 gallons of water, 40 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forest, and 20 lbs CO2. Every day you’re a vegan saves the equivalent.

If you’re wondering how much your environmental impact has lessened since going vegan, use the calculator below.

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How much are you saving as a vegan?
Enter how long you’ve been a vegan to calculate your environmental impact
You’ve saved:
1 animals not eaten
1,100 gallons of water
40 lbs of grain
20 lbs of CO2
30 sq.ft of forest

Calculator Data Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Impact Of Going Vegan

Eating a plant-based diet is something that many people consider. When you do, it’s easier to control what goes into your body.

It’s possible to eat a well-balanced diet as a vegan, which is often low in processed foods and salt unless you default to vegan convenience foods.

This means that vegans tend to be and feel healthier. For example, you could reduce the risk of developing diabetes, having a stroke, and prevent heart disease.

The body often gets better at absorbing nutrients from the intestines because you’re getting them from whole-food sources and not from a lab. Minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc are in shorter supply, so your body has to get them from within.

While the impact of going vegan can clearly be seen from your body’s point of view, I want to talk mainly about how you can change the world by doing so. I’ll also discuss the negative effects on the environment, which are fewer than those from meat-eaters. It’s time to jump in and learn why ‘going vegan’ is greener and better for everyone. 

The Difference One Person Can Make By Becoming a Vegan

Most people choose to make a lifestyle change and ask themselves, ‘what difference could this possibly make?’ Whether you desire to use less plastic to reduce your carbon footprint or shut off the water while lathering up in the shower, you want to know how it actually affects the world.

When I decided to go vegan, I realized that there is a significant difference that I alone can make.

Save Animal Lives

I’ve got to start here with an ugly truth: most of the meat people consume comes from animals in severe distress. They are genetically modified, spend a short life in a cage, and deal with insurmountable stress. For example:

  • Dairy cows get artificially impregnated each year because they can only produce milk when they’re feeding a baby. This is similar to humans only producing milk for their young. When they don’t have a child to feed, their ability to produce milk declines or goes away completely.
  • Once the dairy cow has endured a grueling nine-month pregnancy (like humans!), the newborn is taken from the mother to be used in some way or slaughtered. This way, the baby doesn’t drink any of the milk, and it can get pumped out and sold to consumers.
  • Pigs tend to live in cramped, filthy stalls, and most of them never see daylight. Piglets are often killed right after they’re born for meat or are kept to be breeders for more offspring.
  • Male chicks can’t lay eggs, so they’re often killed at one-day-old in inhumane ways. 

Everyone knows that meat is created inhumanely and it’s not a pretty sight. Still, I’ve found that most people don’t realize how switching to veganism can save these poor creatures.

When I used the vegan calculator above, I realized that an average person going vegan for a single month could save up to 30 animal lives. That’s almost an animal a day that you can save by going vegan! People who have decided to give up consuming animals forever could save countless lives.

Global Climate Change

While this is a significant concern for me, it’s not the only thing you can save when you go vegan. You’ve probably heard of climate change, and animal agriculture is one of the main causes of it. It takes much more water and land to produce dairy and meat.

If you were to go vegan for just a month, you could get rid of about 600 pounds of emissions (carbon dioxide), save 33,000 gallons of water, and protect over 900 square feet of land (forest).

According to specialists, the biggest way to have an impact on the environment is to go vegan. Animal agriculture has been shown to be far more resource-intensive than plant-based sources. About 1.5 acres of land can produce 37,000 pounds of plant food or only 375 pounds of meat. (source)

Now, you may be thinking that it’s going to take forever to see any change. It’s true that veganism has a long-term effect and focuses more on the big picture. If you’re thinking about going vegan, though, it helps to know how you’re helping the world.

Negative Effects of Veganism on the Environment

Understanding the advantages and what positive impact you can have is the start. I couldn’t finish this article without talking about the negative effects that veganism has on the environment. There aren’t many, but there are a few.

Many fruits and vegetables Americans consume are imported from other countries. This means that fuel is used for transport, which uses natural resources.

Airplanes pollute the air we breathe, too. The cost isn’t as high as for the meat and dairy industry, but it’s something to consider. 

To offset this issue, vegans should try to eat locally-sourced produce. I find that it’s quite exciting to change seasons because it means new vegetables and fruits are available. There might be times when you get a craving for strawberries in winter, and this is okay.

Sustainability is a concern, too. A study from the University of Manchester shows that eating asparagus raises the carbon footprint because 5.3kg of carbon dioxide is produced for each kilogram of the vegetable.

This occurs because most of the asparagus is imported from Peru by air. Also, it takes more water and land to produce these green stalks of deliciousness.

Again, this is why it’s so important to get your produce from a local source. That way, there are fewer emissions and a lower carbon footprint to grow everything and bring it to your table. 

You may find that you can’t give up certain things. I feel the same way at times and often get specialty items as a treat to myself. If it’s done in moderation, the negative impact isn’t that much. In fact, even with the significant carbon footprint of growing and shipping produce, eating meat is still worse for the environment, on average.

Final Thoughts

Those who care about the earth have a way to protect it for many years to come. There are many positive reasons to go vegan. These include being healthier, protecting animals, and lowering the carbon footprint that you create. 

While this can backfire, you can continue to lower your carbon footprint by getting your produce from local sources and eating ‘exotic’ vegetables and fruits less often. 

Now is the best time to change your life. You can make a difference in the world by being a vegan, even if you don’t see the effects immediately.

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

2 thoughts on “Vegan Calculator: What’s The Environmental Impact Of Going Vegan?”

  1. Hi there – this is really interesting, but do you have a source for the calculation “The estimated impact of eating meat every day costs 1 animal life, 1,100 gallons of water, 40 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forest, and 20 lbs CO2.” I have seen this quoted elsewhere but get challenged on it when I quote it to other people. Thanks.

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