The Plant-Based Diet: Who's Doing It, Why It Works

Megan Dobransky contributed to this article.

The plant-based lifestyle has many environmental benefits. Photo: Alex Vietti, Earth911

I decided to write this article for our partner Silk, because I’m vegan.

Vegan – the word comes with a lot of baggage. You get the instant concept of “rabbit food” or perhaps various radical stylings, but rarely do you get the whole truth.

Before I delve too deeply, let me make a little disclaimer. Vegan is a label, one used to easily identify a set of choices, but still, a label, and nothing more. My definition of vegan may be different than yours, so for the purpose of clarity, let’s get on the same page.

Vegan is most commonly defined as a person who does not consume, purchase or use animal products. As an example, I don’t wear leather, wool or silk, I don’t eat whey or honey, and I don’t buy products that test on animals.

The reasons behind being vegan vary as much as the acts themselves. Some are about animal rights, others about the environment, while a vast number do it for weight control.

From Oprah to Ellen, celebs have recently been talking about, exploring and even encouraging people to pick up the plant-based way of life, which includes veganism and vegetarianism, for a variety of reasons. For our purposes, I’ll focus on the environment.

Get More: 8 Ways Vegetarian is Good for the Environment

Soy, almond and coconut milks are all staples of the plant-based diet. According to SwitchtoSilk.com, “one carton of milk requires four times more water than producing one carton of Silk Soymilk.” That’s up to 14,000 gallons of water per year if one U.S. household switched from milk to Silk.

Plant-based diets also tend to have a smaller CO2 footprint than meat-centric diets. A University of Chicago study found that the typical U.S. diet produces almost 1.5 more tons of CO2 per year than a strictly vegetarian diet, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels during food production.

Producing a half-gallon of Silk generates 65 percent fewer greenhouse gases than the production of the average half-gallon of milk.

Continue: More Environmental Reasons, Plus How to Get Started