A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (US) , Oxford Martin School researchers have found.
The study, published today in PNAS, is the first to estimate both the health and climate change impacts of moving towards more plant-based diets for all major world regions.
“What we eat greatly influences our personal health and the global environment,” says Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, who led the study. “Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables, and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions. At the same time the food system is also responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore a major driver of climate change.”
To assess the health and environmental impacts, the researchers modelled four different dietary scenarios for the year 2050: a ‘business as usual’ scenario based on projections of future diets; a scenario based on global dietary guidelines which includes minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits to the amount of red meat, sugar, and total calories; and vegetarian and vegan scenarios which both conform to the dietary guidelines.
They found that adopting diets in line with global dietary guidelines could avoid 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050. Even greater benefits could come from vegetarian diets (avoiding 7.3 million deaths) and vegan diets (avoiding 8.1 million deaths). Approximately half of the avoided deaths were due to reduction of red meat consumption, with the other half due to a combination of increased fruit and vegetable intake and a reduction in calories, leading to fewer people being overweight or obese.
The study projects that by 2050, food-related greenhouse gas emissions could account for half of the emissions the world can afford if global warming is to be limited to less than 2°C. Adopting global dietary guidelines would cut food-related emissions by 29%, vegetarian diets by 63%, and vegan diets by 70%.
The researchers also modelled the economic benefits of dietary change and found that the changes in diets could produce savings of $700-$1,000 billion (US) per year on healthcare, unpaid informal care and lost working days. The value that society places on the reduced risk of dying could even be as high as 9-13% of global GDP, or $20-$30 trillion (US). In addition, the researchers found that the economic benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions from dietary changes could be as much as $570 billion (US).
“Putting a dollar value on good health and the environment is a sensitive issue,” says Dr Springmann. “However, our results indicate that dietary changes could have large benefits to society, and the value of those benefits makes a strong case for increased public and private spending on programmes aimed to achieve healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.”
Dr Springmann points out that there are large regional variations in the health impacts of dietary change. The greatest number of avoided deaths is projected to be in developing countries, particularly in East Asia and South Asia, but per-person benefits would be twice as large in developed countries, due to larger per-person reductions in red meat consumption and total calorie intake.
Reduced red meat consumption was the factor that had the biggest effect in East Asia, in Western high- and middle-income countries, and in Latin America, while increasing fruit and vegetable intake was the biggest factor in reducing deaths in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Reduced calorie intake, and the resulting reductions in the number of overweight or obese people, played a key role in improving health in the Eastern Mediterranean, Latin America, and Western high- and middle-income countries.
“The regional detail of our study can be used to identify the most appropriate interventions for both the production and consumption sides of the food system,” adds Dr Springmann.
The scale of the task is “clearly enormous,” he says. The study finds that just to meet global dietary recommendations, fruit and vegetable production and consumption would need to more than double in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, whereas red meat consumption would need to be halved globally, and cut by two thirds in Western high- and middle-income countries, East Asia, and Latin America. In addition, overconsumption would need to be tackled.
“And that might not even be enough,” Dr Springmann warns. “Our analysis indicates that adopting global dietary guidelines would not be enough to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions to the same extent that total greenhouse gas emissions will need to fall to keep global temperature increases to below 2°C.”
“We do not expect everybody to become vegan,” he adds. “But climate change impacts of the food system will be hard to tackle and likely require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large step in the right direction. The size of the projected benefits should encourage individuals, industry, and policy makers to act decisively to make sure that what we eat preserves our environment and our health.”
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.