Home > Ecological economics, Miscellaneous > Is going by bike better than being vegetarian?

Is going by bike better than being vegetarian?

Being vegetarian is perhaps one of the best lifestyle choices you can make. And one of the strongest argument for making this choice perhaps is that, depending on the type of meat and the production system it comes from, 1 food calorie from meat need by between 2 to 10 times more energy (I don’t know the exact numbers, but they are somewhere out there) than one from a plant based diet.

Not surprising that I was delighted to find the link to economz – visualizing your carbon footprint on the Food Tank website. economz is a visualization project with a very nice online tool which allows you to compose alternative meals from different popular food items and visualize the carbon foodprint of those meals in terms of car miles traveled.

Now, if I prepare a meal consisting of a steak with french fries and some tomatoes and broccoli (for the vitamins!) I learn that eating this dish once a day for one year corresponds to 3794 miles driven by car. Wow! A more reasonable and vegetarian dish with tofu, rice, broccoli and tomatoes is worth 1087 miles. This means that in this scenario going vegetarian (only for lunch) would safe me 2707 miles per year. That’s indeed very nice.

But well, I think again and what comes to my mind is that many people actually use their car a lot more every year and in fact those 2707 miles might not be that much. I have no idea about the average annual car use in a more or less developed society. But I can take my own daily commuting as a reference, which is around 15 miles. Assuming that I do all this by car at the moment (which I don’t), I would need to leave the car at home and take the bike on 180 days of the year to save the additional emissions from a steak-and-chips diet. That is substantial, and my tentative conclusion is that being vegetarian is about as good as going to work by bike during 75% of the year. More or less…

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