Journal of Social Sciences

Combating Climate Change One Bite at a Time: Environmental Sustainability of Veganism (with a Socio-Behavioral Comparison of Vegans and Omnivores)

Jennifer M. Ghahari and Jennifer A. McAdam

DOI : 10.3844/jssp.2018.1.11

Journal of Social Sciences

Volume 14, 2018

Pages 1-11


In an era of escalating climate change, our research examines the environmental benefits of veganism and finds which factors could contribute to a societal shift towards veganism. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) release significant greenhouse gas emissions as well as expose people and animals to pathogens. Tropical rainforest destruction for grazing land, the vast amount of fresh/potable water needed for CAFOs and the exploitation of fish at unsustainable levels (impacting the greater global food chain) are all contributing to increasing climate change. Our exploratory empirical data found clear socio-behavioral differences between vegans and omnivores with regard to environmental impact. Specifically, vegans are environmentally conscious in terms of family planning (i.e. zero/negative population growth) and are also more apt to not only recycle but to seek to purchase products in recyclable packaging. Omnivores, whose behaviors drive the aforementioned debilitating effects on the climate, are amenable to altering these behaviors thereby reducing their environmental impact. Our findings indicate omnivores are open to eating vegan options and would consider adhering to a vegan lifestyle if that lifestyle positively impacts their personal health: (i.e., if their physician encouraged veganism and if legitimate reports showed animals on CAFOs were unhealthy and/or abused). Since omnivores generally do not place much importance on the environmental impact of their eating habits, a way to latently combat climate change is to increase knowledge regarding the multitude of veganism’s health benefits, which should result in an increasing number of omnivores who adhere to aspects of a vegan lifestyle.


© 2018 Jennifer M. Ghahari and Jennifer A. McAdam. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.