The article ‘Reducing the Environmental Impact of Dietary Choice: Perspectives from a Behavioural and Social Change Approach’ discusses the major issue of food consumption contributing to one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions and burdening our health. There is recognition for the fact that climate change is a public health concern as it links with loss of biodiversity, land degradation, crop growth failure, and an increase in disease. This ultimately leads to a reduction in food security. As populations grow and incomes rise, the demand for meat and dairy increase. Following a sustainable food policy requires a shift in the behaviour of consumers through informing them about the environmental impacts associated with food choices and the healthier food options available.
Livestock accounts for 30% of global land use, hence its major impact on climate change, freshwater pollution and loss of wildlife. Greenhouse gas emissions are significantly high, especially due to the release of manure. Additionally, deforestation to make space for livestock has led to large carbon dioxide emissions. Research has shown that the vegan diet is the lowest contributor of impact to the environment. The consumption of beef holds the greatest impact, then fish, milk and cheese. Additionally, land loss in developing countries for livestock is there to benefit developed countries and therefore requires means of exportation, leading to greater greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, efficient practices to reduce methane production from livestock are necessary. Lowering the amount of red-meat consumption from the western world is believed to be the most equitable way forward to make a real difference. Large consumptions of meat have links between chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. Additionally, lower levels of livestock demand can help to decrease issues relating to zoonotic disease.
Whilst plant-based diets do hold benefits, it is important to take nutritional supplements which would have come from meat. If one does so, there is no research found to suggest that a plant-based diet leads to adverse health effects. There has been research to suggest lower meat consumptions linking to increased longevity, but it is not fully investigated as to whether it is a causal relationship. However, the type of fat and having large quantities holds a notable threat for heart disease. There is a recommendation for those at risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. It is also a means for treatment for type 2 diabetes as research shows several benefits to health. Furthermore, it is believed that certain diseases, like bird flu, are a consequence of humans eating animals.
The discussion of environmental and health consequences of dietary choices seemingly leads to the conclusion that behavioural change is needed. Research has proven that people are more likely to respond to such suggestions if issues are concerning health rather than environmental impacts. Whilst further research is needed, a sustainable approach can have a massive impact on the environment. It is to be considered whether the use of social media to promote ideas for reducing the environmental impact of healthcare will be a strategic approach for sustainable management.