Many experts now agree that plant-based foods (including plant-based alternatives to dairy and alternatives to meat) are better for the planet as they generally require less water and land, and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than animal-based products.
In the first pyramid, the ‘food’ pyramid, foods that should be eaten in smaller amounts for health are placed at the top of the pyramid (e.g. meat, dairy products and sweets) and those that need to be eaten in greater quantities (e.g. vegetables, fruits and legumes) are at the base.The ‘environmental’ pyramid was created by measuring the environmental impact of these foods and placing them in an upside down pyramid, with foods at the lowest level (at the peak of the triangle) having the lowest environmental impact. Placing the two pyramids next to each other, the “Double Food-Environmental Pyramid” allows people to see that foods we should be eating more of, are also, generally, those that have the lowest environmental impact. On the other hand, foods that we should be eating less of are also those that have a greater environmental impact.
As a result, shifting towards plant-based eating and cutting down on animal foods can make a big difference to both our health and the health of the planet.
Western consumer behavior is pushing the planet with its 7 billion inhabitants to its limits. Currently, nearly two thirds of the world’s available agricultural land is used to produce food for animals. However with a growing population, it’s expected that by 2050 the demand for meat and milk will double. At this rate, unless we change our eating habits, there won’t be enough land to produce sufficient food for the world’s population.
Plant-based foods are more sustainable than animal foods requiring less land, water and energy resources and producing fewer greenhouse gases emissions. For example, producing cow’s milk requires 3 times more land and 2.5 times more water than a soya drink, while the CO2 emission from cow’s milk is 5 times higher.