Diet Change for Climate Change – Our Planetary Responsibility

Dairy production pollutes waterways, adds to greenhouse gas emissions, and destroys local ecosystems. Find out how changing your diet impacts climate change.

Ditching dairy and going plant-based can reduce your…


Carbon Emissions by


Land Use by


Water Use by
The dairy industry is a major contributor to global warming. Their practices are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution, in addition to taxing our natural lands and accelerating deforestation. By eliminating dairy and choosing a plant-based lifestyle, you can help to fight the climate crisis and restore fragile ecosystems.

Environmental impact of the dairy industry


A dairy farm with 2,500 cows produces 110 million pounds of waste per year, equivalent to the waste from a city of 411,000 people (about the size of Sacramento, California). (1, 8) Waste from dairy farms is stored in massive lagoons that are prone to leakage, contaminating the surrounding soil and groundwater.


Butter ranks third on the National Resource Defense Council’s chart of 10 common climate-damaging foods. It requires 21 gallons of milk to make 1 pound of butter (using 21,000 gallons of water in the process).


1,000 gallons of water is required to produce 1 gallon of cows’ milk. (3)


Animal agriculture makes up ¼ of the global water footprint, 19% of which is from dairy cattle. (4)


100 calories of cattle feed only produce 40 calories of milk, making it an extremely wasteful and inefficient beverage. (5)


Manure lagoons contain two major air pollutants—ammonia and hydrogen sulfide—that irritate the respiratory system and can lead to health complications. (12) California’s prominent dairy region—the San Joaquin Valley—has the highest particulate (dust from dried manure) pollution in the United States. (10)


The production of raw milk makes up 38% of global greenhouse gases produced by enteric emissions (aka the worldwide sum of cow burps and farts). (7)


Each year, a single cow belches about 220 pounds of methane. Methane is 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere. With 270 million dairy cows around the world all producing methane, the dairy industry is not climate-friendly.


Animal waste and agriculture accounts for 74% of all U.S. nitrous oxide emissions. This particular gas is the most damaging because it has 300 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. It also stays in the Earth’s atmosphere for 114 years on average, significantly longer than other short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon (which exists in the atmosphere for days) or methane (which is around for 12 years).

References →
1. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Risk Assessment Evaluation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. National Service Center for Environmental Publications website. https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=901V0100.txt. May 2004. Accessed May 2019.
3. Hoekstra, AY. The Water Footprint of Food. https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Hoekstra-2008-WaterfootprintFood.pdf. Published 2008. Accessed May 2019.
4. Mekonnen, MM. and Hoekstra, AY. A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products. Ecosystems 2012; 15(3):401–415. doi:10.1007/s10021-011-9517-8.
5. Emily S Cassidy et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 034015
6. Edinborough University and The Guardian
7. Upfield Plant-Based Spreads and Margarine vs. Dairy Butter: Life Cycle Assessment Technical Summary
8. US Environmental Protection Agency. “Ag 101: Dairy Production: Lifecycle production phases.” EPA, (date uncertain). Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/documents/ag_101_agriculture_us_epa_0.pdf
9. Douglas, Leah. “Lost Valley debacle leads to effort to limit mega-dairies in Oregon.” The Oregonian, April 5, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019, from https://www.oregonlive.com/business/2019/04/lost-valley-debacle-leads-to-effort-to-limit-mega-dairies-in-oregon.html
10. American Lung Association. “Most Polluted Cities.” American Lung Association, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html
11. Hopkins, Francesca M. “Greenhouse Gas Emission for Manure Management at California Dairies: Linking Observations Across Scales for Improved Understanding of Emissions.” University of California, Dairy and Livestock Working Group Joint Subgroups Meeting, July 27, 2018. Retrieved April 12, 2019, from https://arb.ca.gov/cc/dairy/documents/07-26-18/dairy_fresno_27july2018.pdf
12. Food & Water Watch. “Air Pollution From Oregon’s Large Dairies: Fact Sheet.” FWW, March 2017. Retrieved April 12, 2019, from https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/fs_1702_oregoncafo-web_2.pdf
13. Wisconsin State Legislature. “Chapter NR 213: Administrative Code NR 213.10. General liner specifications.” gov, July 2015. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/nr/200/213/II/10/2

How a Plant-Based Diet Saves the Planet

These healthy, plant-based foods are more far more sustainable and climate-friendly than dairy products. They’re loaded with essential macro and micro nutrients to help nourish your body so you can perform at your best while being better for the planet.


Going vegetarian will reduce your carbon emissions by on average 31%, land use by 51% while going vegan can reduce your carbon emissions by on average 45% and land use by 55%. (1)


It takes 1,000 gallons of water to make 1 gallon of milk. One person can save the water equivalent of 50 ten-minute showers for every gallon of milk they don’t drink. (2, 3)


If everyone in the U.S. skipped eating meat or cheese just one day per week, it would be the equivalent of eliminating 91 billion miles driven or taking 7.6 million cars off the road. (4)


Eating 60% less cheese will help keep the global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. (5)


Eating 4 ounces of cheese contributes the same amount of carbon dioxide emissions as driving 3.5 miles. Each time you pass on the cheese you are keeping climate-destroying CO2 out of the air. (6)


The world’s top five largest meat and dairy companies alone produce more greenhouse gases annually than ExxonMobil, Shell, or BP. (7)

References →
1. Aleksandrowicz L, Green R, Joy EJM, Smith P, Haines A. The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11(11): e0165797.
2. Hoekstra, Arjen Y. “The water footprint of food”. Water for Food.
3. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-percapita.php
4. “Reducing Your Footprint.” Reducing Your Footprint – 2011 Meat Eaters Guide | Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health | Environmental Working Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017
5. Springmann, Marco et al, “Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits.” Nature volume 562, pages519–525 (2018) and summary by The Guardian
6. Hamerschlag, K. Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health. Environmental Working Group. 2011.
7. GRAIN. “Emissions impossible: How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet.” GRAIN and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, June 28, 2018. Retrieved April 12, 2019, from https://www.grain.org/article/entries/5976-emissions-impossible-how-big-meat-and-dairy-are-heating-up-the-planet

Sustainable Nondairy Foods


Oats use significantly less water and are more climate-friendly than cows’ milk. (1)

  • 1 liter of cow’s milk emits 3 ½ times more carbon dioxide and requires more than 20 times the water of producing oat milk.


Pulses (beans, dry peas, lentils, and chickpeas) are a more sustainable source of protein than cows’ milk. (2)

  • Pulses have up to 2 times the amount of protein per serving (depending on the variety) and emit 80% less greenhouse gases per ton of protein compared to cow’s milk.


🍌 Bananas are a more sustainable of potassium than cows’ milk. (3)

  • 1 banana contains 48 mg more potassium than 1 glass of cow’s milk while using 60% less water to produce.


Kale is a more sustainable source of calcium than cows’ milk. (4)

  • 1 cup of kale has the same amount of absorbable calcium as 1 cup of cows’ milk, but only 33 calories. An 8 oz glass of cows’ milk ranges from 83 to 148 calories (from skim to whole-fat varieties).


Soy milk is more sustainable than cows’ milk.

  • Compared to cows’ milk, soy milk production uses only 2.8% the amount of water, 7.8% the amount of land, produces 69% less greenhouse gas emissions, and requires 77% less total energy. (3)(5)

Pro Athletes are Fighting Climate Change with Diet Change

Professional athletes and Olympic champions from all over the world are speaking up to encourage you to adopt a plant-based diet to combat climate change and ensure a healthy, sustainable future for the next generation.

How to Start a Climate-Friendly Plant-Based Diet

It’s your turn to take responsibility!

Beyond being environmentally friendly, the beauty of a plant-based diet is that it’s the healthiest and most nutrient-dense diet while being the most efficient in terms of water, land, and energy use. With it’s abundance and variety, everyone can make the switch to a plant-based diet and feel 100% satisfied.

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