The other day as I was watching television, one of those tormenting and depressing commercials of the dying polar bears appeared. I thought to myself: “Yeah, I love polar bears, but what could I possibly do to save them?” Little did I know that changing my diet to be more vegetarian-friendly could not only better my health, but also help save endangered animals and improve our global environment.

The year was 1906 when the celebrated muckraking journalist, Upton Sinclair, published his infamous novel, The Jungle, which exposed the disgusting horrors behind the meatpacking industry. Not only did this industry promote deplorable working conditions, but allowed unsanitary conditions to permeate the slaughterhouses. Publications like Sinclair’s The Jungle only further spurred the American vegetarian movement. In 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed that the agricultural sector was responsible for 9% of the total US Greenhouse Emissions. These greenhouse gas emissions increase the greenhouse effect globally, causing heating on the earth’s surface. Sections of the earth are covered in ice caps, which are melting in response to the increased surface temperature. These ice caps are home to several species that are currently facing endangerment or even extinction, polar bears for instance, as the greenhouse gas emissions rise.

Comparing red meat production to other meats, such as poultry and fish, one steak takes 28 times more land, 11 times more water and 5 times more greenhouse gas emissions to produce, according to an article found on Live Science. In regards to cattle specifically, one dairy cow can produce 75 kilograms of methane per year, which when added up with all the cattle across the country generates a disastrous amount of methane into the atmosphere. An important point to make, as stressed in an article from Worldwatch Institute, is the production of these cattle are not in their natural proportions, but are the effect from a man-created business. Looking at the numbers, even just limiting your intake of certain kinds of meat, like steak, can help facilitate a greener environment.

Journalist and United Nations University contributor, Carol Smith, explains how a large population switching to a more vegetarian-based diet could help prevent the deforestation of tropical forests and savannahs across the globe. Another frightening statistic from Scientific American claims four-fifths of the deforestation in the Amazon may be linked to cattle ranching. An added consequence of a population heavily dependent on meat is the amount of land that is stripped in order to allow more cattle to be raised and slaughtered. Deforestation has obvious repercussions such as the extinction and endangerment of species, but deforestation also increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, according to National Geographic. As explained, the trees in areas such as the amazon provide absorption of gases, and when they are cut down, these gases are forced into the atmosphere. Furthermore, in an article found on Our World, Smith also explains how if our current diet of highly refined sugars and processed meats continues, greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 80% in 2050. While it may feel like this global heating crisis is out of our hands, in reality, we can each take tiny steps to preserve our planet.

When it comes to health fads, there is always some new diet craze or insane exercise regime that is trending. Unlike recent intense workout programs such as cross fit or impossible diets like paleo, vegetarianism has always remained a trademark of good nutrition. Vegetarianism is notably a great decision for one’s personal health. The Global Healing Center claims that not only does this limited diet satisfy each nutritional need, but can also help prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Several studies have shown, particularly a study carried out by Cancer Research UK in 2006, that those who have a vegetarian based diet are more likely to have a smaller body mass index (BMI). Vegetarianism has both personal health and global benefits; these combined perks are the main argument for why more people should seriously consider this positive lifestyle change.

After examining all of the consequences meat production causes, a vegetarian lifestyle looks more and more appealing. Of course, there are numerous factors that come into play when discussing climate change and global warming such as natural cyclical changes and variation in solar radiation. Yet, for an individual who is committed to the health and preservation of our planet, vegetarianism provides a simple resolution to those who wish to sustain our environment. Even just a simple choice to limit the amount of meat one intakes per week can make a difference. With the weighted combination of both health and universal advantages that stem from a vegetarian lifestyle, the choice should be simple: help your health while also saving the environment.