Dietary changes in High Income Countries could significantly contribute to more sustainable global water usage, land use and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being healthier, according to a scientific review in PLOS ONE.
The review looked at 63 studies of diets which had both improved human health and reduced the impact of food production on the environment. It used agricultural land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions as markers to assess the environmental impact of each diet.
Broadly speaking the review showed that shifting typical Western diets to more sustainable dietary patterns has the potential to produce over a 70% reduction in GHG emissions and land use and a 50% reduction in water use.
Based on all three measures, vegan diets would have the most positive impact overall, followed by vegetarian and then pescatarian diets. There was also a modest health benefit associated with all the types of sustainable diet studied.
The authors also noted that most of the environmental impact of food is associated with the food production stage rather than the transport and delivery of food.
While local and seasonal diets have advantages such as protecting local economies and crop diversity, efforts to reduce dietary-related environmental impacts should focus on reducing animal-based foods in high-consuming societies.
For more detailed information access the original article, “The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review” by Lukasz Aleksandrowicz , Rosemary Green, Edward J. M. Joy, Pete Smith, Andy Haines in the PLOS ONE journal.