Industrialized animal agriculture is the largest singular driver of climate change, responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, and is also the culprit behind mass deforestation, water, and air pollution. Considering most people consume about double the amount of protein they need, two-thirds of which comes from animal sources, our everyday eating habits are taking a massive toll on the planet. What’s more, despite all of the resources used and pollution created, one in eight people still suffer from food scarcity.

So, what would happen if everyone in the U.S. opted for a plant-based diet, instead of meat-centric one? A new study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences answers just that.

Robin White of the Virginia Institute of Technology and Mary Beth Hall of the  U.S. Dairy Forage Research Centre created statistical models showing what would happen if farmed animals were removed and the effects it would have on greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

The study posits that a nation of 320 million people who only ate a plant-based diet would REDUCE greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by about 28 percent. And that’s not all, total food production would actually INCREASE by about 23 percent, making grains and legumes widely available since land used to grow animal feed would instead be used to grow food for people. To put that in context, around 47 percent of soy and 60 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is fed to livestock – if all of those resources were allocated to people, we could make a serious dent in domestic hunger statistics.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the entire U.S. to eat plant-based foods to make a difference. You can start eating for the planet by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)

You can #EatForThePlanet starting today. Just follow the three simple steps below.

1. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)
2. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.
3. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.

We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

Image Source: sathish mrb/Flickr