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A recent
study in the US found animal products responsible for 83.5 percent of diet
related greenhouse gas emissions – and 20 percent of Americans accountable for
almost half overall.

Research
results

The study –
conducted by University of Michigan and Tulane University, and published in Environmental Research Letters – analyzed the impact
of over 300 foods, and the diets of 16,000 Americans.

It revealed that only 20 percent of Americans – those who eat the most animal
products – are responsible for 46 percent of food-related emissions overall on
an average day.

The foods
studied were divided into categories, with the meat, dairy, egg, and fish and
seafood groups accounting for 83.5 percent cumulatively – while plant-based
foods were responsible for significantly less.

Plant-based
options

The
categories of fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains, and nuts and seeds
accounted for less than three percent of diet-related emissions each.

Legume
consumption was found to be the least detrimental – with the food group causing
just 0.3 percent of emissions.

Individual
diets

Diego Rose,
of Tulane University, said that while most studies of this kind look at an
average national diet, this is the first in the US to rely instead on
individual reports of daily consumption.

This
allowed for a comparison of the least detrimental diets, of those in a group
the researched called the ‘first quintile’, to the most negatively impactful
eaters, the ‘fifth quintile’.

Potential
for impact

The study demonstrates that a change in diet – especially for the top contributors
– could have a tremendous impact on food-related emissions, overall.

University
of Michigan researcher, Martin Heller said: “Reducing the impact of our
diets – by eating fewer calories and less animal-based foods – could achieve
significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

“It’s
climate action that is accessible to everyone, because we all decide on a daily
basis what we eat.”

Emily Court

Emily Court

Emily Court is a writer and content creator published in Plant Based News, Raise Vegan, Living Vegan and The Financial Diet. A self-described "recovering vegan hothead," she is now a pragmatic member of Vancouver's vibrant and growing plant-powered community. Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, she holds a BA in Spanish and certificate in Intercultural Communication from Dalhousie University, where her thesis focused on topics of cultural and gender-based discrimination. She aims to apply a privilege-conscious...