Shifting to a plant-based diet has long been recognized as an effective way for individuals to reduce their own carbon footprints. Using a new approach, a study published in May 2017 calculated the possible impact of one very specific dietary change: substituting beans for beef in the diet of all Americans. The study concluded that this one change could free up 42% of U.S. cropland and achieve 46 to 74% of the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet the 2020 goal for the United States.
Reporting on the study’s findings in theatlantic.com, James Hamblin suggested adjusting one’s diet as a remedy for “ecoanxiety” – the dread and helplessness brought on by climate change. He quotes the study’s lead author, Helen Harwatt of Loma Linda University: “The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven,” said Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”