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This is the terrifying reason we should all eat one more vegan meal a week

Posted by
Megan Murray
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Swapping in just one vegan meal to your diet a week could drastically help the environment, will you give it a go?

Even if you’re the kind of person who orders their steak rare at a restaurant, we imagine veganism has at least come onto your radar in recent times.

This is in part because it’s the most fashionable cuisine of the moment, and everyone who is already doing it seems to have a built in need to tell others why they should get on the band wagon.

But it’s also because the benefits are undeniable, both for us as individuals and also for the planet.

People who have gone vegan have reported having more energy, clearer skin and improved gut health, but the environmental benefits have also been a huge motivator for many taking the leap.

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Scientists have believed for some time now that embracing a reduced-meat diet is key to tackling climate change, claiming that opting for mostly plant-based foods is essential if we want to help manage water shortages and pollution levels. But new research has turned these findings into a quantifiable measure of how you can help do your bit – and it’s a simple as giving up red meat one meal a week.

According to new scientific data analysis, if everyone in the UK swapped just one red meat meal to a plant-based meal per week, it would cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50 million tonnes – which is the equivalent of taking 16 million cars off the road – resulting in up to an 8.4% reduction in the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The analysis was undertaken on behalf of The Meatless Farm Co by Joseph Poore, lead author of a recent global study on the environmental impacts of food, to calculate the environmental benefits of changing diets in Britain. 

He compared red meat meals versus their plant-based equivalents, analysing everything from production on the farm and lifecycle environmental impacts to energy use and transportation throughout the supply chain. Poore also looked at the meals’ packaging, and food loss and waste at each stage of the process, as well as the carbon benefits from trees re-growing on the land no longer required to produce meat.

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As well as revealing a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, these new findings demonstrated that switching just one red meat meal to plant-based a week could result in a 23% reduction (8 million hectares) in the UK’s domestic and international farmland use, and a 2% reduction in the UK’s water use (the same as taking 55 fewer showers per person per year). The research has prompted a new campaign, The Meatless Consumption Target, which is encouraging UK households to swap to eating one more plant-based meal per week by 2021. 

Part of achieving this goal is down to getting to grips with more vegan recipes like whipping up your own sweet and savoury vegan pancakes, experimenting with vegan comfort food recipes like aubergine lasagna and falafel shakshuka or testing out non-dairy truffles. But another factor that came out of the research is how important vegan eating-out options are to people, with 74% of those surveyed as part of the campaign reporting that restaurants need to be doing more to be environmentally friendly. 

If you’re in London this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. A whole wave of savvy, talented female chefs have been opening vegan and environmentally-friendly restaurants and cafes. There’s also a host of vegan afternoon teas, vegan burger spots and even a vegan cheesemongers

Check out our wealth of veganism content for more inspiration and advice on how to cut down on your meat intake, and do your bit for the planet.  

Images: Getty / Simona Todorova

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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