• Glenn Wilson
    Is it possible to do one simple thing that could help conserve water, reduce your carbon footprint and maybe improve your health?

    What if you stopped eating animal products? Or, just red meat? Or, if you just ate less animal products? What if everyone in North America did the same? And, of course, not replace animal products with unhealthy alternatives but with healthy grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables?

    The changes to water availability, carbon footprint and health might take a while to manifest but diet change could improve all three. There is more everyone can do beyond diet (rainwater catchment, LED bulbs, walk or bike, etc.), but diet changes alone could have a significant impact. One simple trick.

    Concerned about getting enough protein from a plant-based diet? See Fun food facts: sources of protein.

    Here are some supporting links and notes. Please add your thoughts in comments.

    Animals require more water than plants per food produced
    Per ton of product, animal products generally have a larger water footprint than crop products. ... The average water footprint per calorie for beef is twenty times larger than for cereals and starchy roots. ... For beef, the water footprint per gram of protein is 6 times larger than for pulses [edible part of legumes]. ... From a freshwater resource perspective, it is more efficient to obtain calories, protein and fat through crop products than animal products.
    Water footprint of crop and animal products: a comparison

    Nuts are an outlier and require a relatively large amount of water for a plant-based food, but still much less than beef.

    Lower carbon footprint for plant-based foods
    Meat, cheese and eggs have the highest carbon footprint. Fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts have much lower carbon footprints. If you move towards a mainly vegetarian diet, you can have a large impact on your personal carbon footprint.

    The carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet is about half that of a meat-lover’s diet.

    Food’s Carbon Footprint

    A plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change
    Plant-rich diets reduce emissions and also tend to be healthier, leading to lower rates of chronic disease. According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs. $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved. ...

    As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said, making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change.

    Drawdown: Plant-rich Diet

    Eating Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking

    This is one way to explain the low rates of cancer among plant-based populations: the drop in animal protein intake leads to a drop in IGF-1, which leads to a drop in cancer growth. An effect so powerful, Dr. Dean Ornish and colleagues appeared to be able to reverse the progression of prostate cancer without chemo, surgery, or radiation—just a plant-based diet, and other healthy lifestyle changes. ...

    This may help explain why those eating low-carb diets appear to cut their lives short. But not just any low-carb diet—specifically those based on animal sources, whereas vegetable-based low-carb diets were associated with a lower risk of death.

    Animal Protein Compared to Cigarette Smoking

    What about conserving water in San Miguel de Allende specifically?

    Would this help? There is a lot I don't know about local agricultural water use and how it might change if there were a reduced demand for meat. But, it seems like there is potential for improvement.

    Our water comes from the Alto Río Laja Aquifer
    The Alto Río Laja Watershed stretches across seven municipalities in northern Guanajuato State in Central Mexico. Ninety-nine percent of the water consumed in this region comes from a large underground reservoir known as the Alto Río Laja Aquifer, which serves several thousand distinct communities – including San Miguel de Allende.
    Caminos de Agua

    Our state supports a lot of cattle production
    The northern portion of the state, which mostly has a dry or semi-dry climate, is a cattle-producing region. .... In terms of generated revenues, produce and livestock account for roughly an equal share of Guanajuato’s agricultural economy.
    Oxford Business Group: Guanajuato growers diversify crops while producers expand operations

    Regardless of the immediate impact on our aquifer, moving from animal-based food to plant-based foods can reduce the overall stress on water supplies.

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