Plant Your Fork for the Planet: How Your Food Choices Shape the Earth

Plant Your Fork for the Planet: How Your Food Choices Shape the Earth

Published on Monday, April 22, 2024 by Savannah Duffy

Slash Your Environmental Footprint: How Shifting Your Diet Helps the Planet

I am continuously fascinated to read about the impact of plant-based diets on our health, but lately, I’ve been more curious about the impact of plant-based diets on something else: our planet’s health. I am not alone.

According to one statistic, 76% of Gen-Z in the U.S. report concern over climate change. Interestingly, Gen-Z is also increasingly more interested in plant-based diets. Let’s take a look at how plant-based diets and climate change go hand in hand.

1. The Carbon Countdown:

Mother Earth is responsible for feeding nearly 8 billion people. To do so, a considerable amount of land, water, and energy is needed. One way that scientists measure the impact of these practices is by the carbon footprint—in other words, the total amount of greenhouse gasses needed to support our lifestyles and actions. The United Nations estimates that vegetarian diets can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint annually by 1.5 tons or 2.1 tons for vegans. We will explore how it can do so below.

2. Land of Plenty: Feeding the World with Less:

An article published in the scientific journal Nutrients proposed some staggering statistics on agricultural practices:

  • 43% of our planet’s land is used up by farmland, and 83% of this farmland is used to produce animal products, including meat, eggs, farmed fish, and dairy.
  • The 83% of farmland that produces animal products only provides 18% of our calories and 37% of our protein needs.
  • Production of animal products contributes to 67% of deforestation caused by agriculture.

If we shift to more plant-based dietary patterns, more of our farmland can be repurposed for uses that are optimal for our planet’s health. This includes reforestation which may improve biodiversity, or free up space to be used for more sustainable food production.

3. Wasting Water?  

As pollution and waste affect our clean water supply, concern over the sustainability of agricultural and farming practices on water supply grows. According to the “Water Footprint of Food '' guide, it takes 463 gallons of water to produce 1 4 oz. serving of beef, whereas it only takes 76 gallons of water to make 1 4 oz serving of tofu. Many other plant-based protein sources, such as lentils, beans, and soy burgers, require even less water. We can help to keep our freshwater fresh by fighting with our fork.

4. Delicious Impact: Plant-Based Recipes and Lifestyle Tips for an Eco-Conscious Kitchen:

We’ve discussed some ways that choosing plant foods may affect our planet at the macro level, but what can we do at the micro level, AKA in our own homes?

-If it is an option, shop locally for as much of your food as possible. The closer our food is sourced, the less greenhouse gases are emitted during travel time.

- Try to batch meal prep. Not only does meal prepping save you time during the week, it can also help you reduce food waste. Planning out your meals in advance gives you time to think through what you have handy in the fridge and keeps you from tossing those leftover beans out at the end of the week.

- Consider composting. Many table scraps, like banana peels or used coffee grinds, can make great natural fertilizer. Having a compost bucket in your kitchen can keep food waste out of landfills, reducing the overall methane production emitted by landfills.

- Last but not least, try going meatless for one meal a week or even one meal a day. Starting small can help you build up a repertoire of plant-based recipes. Need an example? Swap out your eggs and bacon breakfast for hearty oatmeal paired with blueberries and walnuts.

The power of plant foods is extensive. As a reminder, you don’t have to go 100% animal-free. Little swaps can add up to make a big difference in both our health and the environment’s health. It’s a win-win! After all, having a healthier planet helps us to live healthier lives.


  1. Loyst, M. (2023). Fresh takes on climate change: the power of Gen Z perspectives in tech and venture capital. Retrieved February 18, 2024 from
  2. Sodexo. (2023). Landmark Sodexo study in college dining halls shows path for plant-based meals becoming the norm. Retrieved February 18, 2024 from
  3. United Nations. (n.d.). Your guide to climate action: food. Retrieved February 18, 2024 from
  4. Gibbs, J., and Cappuccio, F.P. (2022). Plant-based dietary patterns for human and planetary health. Nutrients, 14(8): 1614.
  5. The water footprint of food guide. (n.d). In Water Footprint Calculator. Retrieved February 19, 2024 from

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