By Jane Marsh | Contributing Writer
We see various vegan options at our favourite coffee shops, grocery stores and even fast-food restaurants. If you are looking to transition to a meatless diet but are not ready to abandon all animal protein options, the pescatarian diet is a suitable option.
Pescatarians follow a vegetarian diet with the addition of seafood. This diet has various health benefits and positive impacts on the environment, and, in some cases, it benefits the planet more than a plant-based diet.
Environmental conservation is a hot topic in present society. Our climate is changing every year, and our diet is a driving factor. Adopting a pescatarian diet can limit the planet’s degradation by reducing methane emissions, limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) release, cutting back on transportation and processing, reducing soil degradation, and conserving land.
Reducing Methane Emissions
The driving factor behind meatless diets is lessening emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere. Cattle and livestock produce methane, which the U.S. highly demands. Methane causes environmental degradation through the greenhouse effect.
The greenhouse effect utilizes naturally occurring air pollutants to absorb the sun’s energy. They transfer this energy into heat, warming the environment to sustain life on Earth. Then they release excess, disruptive heat out of the atmosphere and away from the planet.
Methane functions similarly, but it traps heat in the atmosphere longer than naturally occurring gases and disrupts the global ecosystem. This entrapment causes a rise in the global temperature.
Compared to CO2, methane is 85 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere. It is the second-largest human contributed driver of climate change. These statistics are major red flags when it comes to environmental protection.
Cutting out one’s consumption of livestock can significantly reduce their negative impact on the planet. By replacing animal products with seafood, you can limit your methane emissions and gain vital nutrients like vitamin B12, zinc, calcium, and protein.
Lowering Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Some 14.5% of the globe’s carbon footprint derives from livestock farming. Scientists calculate this number by examining a variety of contributing factors to production.
Grazing farm animals utilize open grassland to maintain their health and development. To ensure that this space is ideal for livestock, farmers use nitrogen fertilizers to stimulate grass growth. The production of this fertilizer releases CO2, which contributes to all farm animal products’ carbon footprint.
Specifically, beef has a large carbon footprint due to its treatment, processing, and transportation. Every gram of cow meat emits 221 grams of CO2.. A pescatarian diet can limit the greenhouse gas emissions contributed by the production of farm animals.
Cutting Back Transportation
With adequate awareness and education of the origin of seafood you are consuming, you can significantly limit your diet’s carbon footprint. Purchasing fish caught and processed locally can add to the sustainability of your diet. You also can evaluate different labelled certifications to ensure the environmental practices of the fisheries you are supporting.
Like portobello mushroom burgers, some vegan options have a greater detrimental impact than locally caught seafood. Each of these mushrooms emits 2.95 kgs of CO2 in production and additional emissions from transportation. You have to consume larger quantities of these plant-based products to sustain the essential nutrients, which further drives harmful emissions.
Seafood can be consumed in lower quantities less often, making it a more sustainable option for the environment. Purchasing fish that has travelled a small distance before reaching your plate can minimize your carbon footprint.
Limiting Soil Degradation
Another benefit of the pescatarian diet is that all development occurs underwater. In wild-caught fishing, no external intervention degrades the environment as fish grow naturally. Farming livestock causes a severe threat to the depletion of nutrients in Earth’s soil.
Producing feed for farm animals and suitable grazing land with monocropping and synthetic fertilizers degrades soil over time. When farming depletes the nutrients, the ground can no longer make those elements. Farmers can utilize human-made inputs to add nutrients to the soil, but those synthetic additives further degrade the environment in other ways.
Over 302 million hectares of land are devoted to producing animal feed in the U.S. This land yields enough grain to feed 800 million people. If half of the country abide by a pescatarian diet, we could reduce the amount of soil needed and degraded in animal feed production.
A pescatarian diet can also limit the amount of land exploited by farming to protect endangered species and deforestation. In the Amazon, cattle ranching accounts for 80% of deforestation, which poses severe issues to the increase of air pollutants in the atmosphere.
Deforestation fuelled by meat consumption causes habitat reduction, biodiversity loss and an increased risk of fires. Limiting meat consumption through a pescatarian diet can help protect endangered plants and animals and reduce excess greenhouse gas in the environment.
Fish do not contribute to the degradation of land. Instead, they naturally support their aquatic ecosystem and contribute to the health of marine life. Sustainably managed fishing can support an increase in marine life diversity and aid the protection of the planet.
Not a Replacement, a Luxury
You can make the most out of a pescatarian diet by treating seafood as a treat or a side rather than over-consuming it as a meat replacement. Cutting back on your overall consumption of animal products, growing your own vegetables, and consuming low emission products can help reduce your negative environmental impact.
Plant-based products contain all of the essential vitamins and minerals to sustain a healthy diet. They also limit one’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity. Occasionally adding seafood to your plate can help ensure that you are consuming other good fats and minerals, but their daily intake is not necessary to adequate health.
When you support your health by limiting your meat consumption, you can better aid environmental conservation. Limiting your exposure to serious health issues can allow you to engage in green practices like riding your bike to work and gardening. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet with occasional seafood intake is one of the most sustainable consumption patterns for environmental protection.
About the Author
Jane is the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she shares practical tips on how to live a greener life.