Healthy for You, Healthy for the Environment

Sam Kim
Phillips Exeter Academy

Have you ever thought about how what you eat not only affects you, but also affects the environment?  Think about the last time you enjoyed a tasty burger. An analysis conducted by the Environmental Working Group found that the production of red meat is responsible for up to forty times as many greenhouse gas emissions as the production of vegetables (1). The pesticides required to grow food for livestock create enormous amounts of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.  Regarding the effects of pesticides and fertilizers, nutritionist Carolyn Denton states that “the ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, where no fish or other animals can live, has grown to 8,543 square miles, the size of New Jersey. This is due to chemicals in the Mississippi River, particularly fertilizers, as it flows into the Gulf” (2).  When concerning the health of the environment and the well-being of other animals, your diet is one of the greatest contributing factors.

In describing the harms of having too much meat in your diet, editors and writers Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss state that “between 1971 and 2010, production of meat tripled to around 600 billion pounds while global population grew by 81%, meaning that we are eating a lot more meat than our grandparents.” (3) In addition to our current intake of meats, Scheer and Moss also state that “researchers extrapolate that global meat production will double by 2050 to about 1.2 trillion pounds a year, putting further pressure on the environment and human health.” (4)  If we continue to produce and consume great amounts of red meat, we will put more stress on both ourselves and the environment for the years to come. Given the increase in red meat production, we must become more conscious of the amount we consume.

Reducing your red meat intake not only will help the environment, but it will also boost your health as well! Too much meat in your diet can be linked to higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and obesity. A more plant-based diet can help reduce the amount of meat you consume. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet is a simple way to begin. Try eating more broccoli with your pasta for dinner or try to snack on more blueberries instead of beef jerky. To continue to receive the adequate amount of protein you need, try eating more eggs, nuts, and beans. We’re not suggesting that you cut meat out of your diet completely, but simply, by reducing your own intake of red meat, you can have a great impact on your carbon footprint and health.  

Environmental issues concerning production of red meats have been present for years, and now are reaching unsustainable levels. Being more conscious of the foods you eat is a simple, effective way to not only boost your own health, but also protect the environment. Ultimately, we will need to enforce more regulations to mitigate the impact of livestock production, but making slight alterations to your diet is a big first step to a healthier planet and a healthier you.

(1) Scheer, Roddy and Doug Moss. “How Does Meat in the Diet Take an Environmental Toll?” Scientific American, Nature America, 2018, accessed March 5, 2018,
(2) Denton, Carolyn. “How Are Food and the Environment Related?” Taking Charge, University of Minnesota, 2016, accessed March 5, 2018,
(3) Scheer, Roddy and Doug Moss. “How Does Meat in the Diet Take an Environmental Toll?” Scientific American, Nature America, 2018, accessed March 5, 2018,
(4) Ibid.