Why a flexitarian diet could help save the planet, according to experts

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Natasha Preskey
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It may be seen as a cop-out, but scientists believe flexitarianism could have huge benefits for the environment

You might have rolled your eyes when that friend claimed to have become a ‘flexitarian’ - but, actually, they might have been onto something. Scientists now believe that embracing a reduced-meat diet is key to tackling climate change. 

Opting for mostly plant-based foods is essential if we want to help manage water shortage and pollution levels, according to a new report, which was published in the journal Nature

Experts believe that our current food system’s impact on climate change is likely to soar between now and 2050, due to projected population growth. 

What is flexitarianism?

Lead author of the study, Dr Marco Springmann of the University of Oxford, told BBC News a flexitarian diet is one “that has small amounts of animal products”. 

Dr Springmann further defines this as comprising “only one serving of red meat per week”. 

Vegan or vegetarian diets are even more beneficial for the environment, but the new research found that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would be cut by more than 50% if we all became flexitarians. 

How does reducing meat consumption help the environment?

According to the Vegetarian Society, livestock farming accounts for nearly a fifth of human-related greenhouse gas emissions. For example, cows produce methane, a greenhouse gas which has 25 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide. 

This, combined with the deforestation which is often required to create space for cattle to graze, makes cattle farming a huge contributor to climate change. 

Cows also have a massive water footprint. To produce one kilogram of beef, it takes 15,415 litres of water (largely because of the crops that cows eat).  According to the WWF, two-thirds of the global population may experience water shortages by 2025. 

So if you’re concerned about climate change - and you should be - try putting down the filet mignon, skipping that trip to Five Guys and eating more meals based on beans, lentils and nuts.

Want some inspiration for a flexitarian diet? Check out these 20 vegetarian dishes you can make in 30 minutes or less

Images: Unsplash