Is a vegetarian diet bad for the environment?

"There's a complex relationship between diet and the environment"

Fresh-picked tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer garden vegetables are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Fresh-picked tomatoes, cucumbers and other summer garden vegetables are displayed for sale at a farmers market in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Foods that are good for our bodies aren’t necessarily what’s best for the environment, new research shows.

According to a study from Carnegie Melon University, eating lettuce is more than 3x worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon.

That means, when it comes to herbivores vs. carnivores, those with plant-based diets could be contributing substantially more to climate change.

Green oak lettuce and a variety of fresh produce is displayed for sale at a farmers market in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Green oak lettuce and a variety of fresh produce is displayed for sale at a farmers market in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

“Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think,” professor Paul Fischbeck said in a press release. “Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”

So, should we be eating more meat and less vegetables to combat climate change?

The answer, it seems, isn’t that cut and dry.

On one hand, the study shows that controlling our weight and eating fewer calories has a positive effect on the environment by reducing energy use, water use and GHG emissions by about 9%.

However, eating healthier foods (like fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood) increases the environmental impact in all 3 categories by 38%, 10% and 6% respectively.

“There’s a complex relationship between diet and the environment,” Ph.D. student Michelle Tom said. “What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment.”

According to Scientific American, onions, okra, carrots, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are among the least-taxing foods to produce.

Scientists are currently researching diets that are both environmentally friendly and good for human health.

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