November 28, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

A recent study caused some confusion concerning the sustainability of vegetarianism. So what did the study actually conclude?


Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the US have revealed that the sustainability argument, a commonly cited reason for vegetarianism, does not apply to all vegetarian foods. While this information has been widely misrepresented in recent media, the true conclusions of the study are important but unsurprising.

By looking at greenhouse gas emissions and resource use per calorie, the researchers concluded that certain fruits and vegetables such as eggplant, celery and cucumbers can cause more damage to the environment than some meats, such as pork or chicken. This takes into account the fact that people need to eat more fruit and vegetables to feel full compared to eating the same amount of meat per calorie.

To conduct the study, the researchers looked at the effects of a shift towards dairy, seafood and fruit and vegetables in terms of energy use, blue water footprint and greenhouse gases. They discovered that eating more of these foods without decreasing calorie intake was the most detrimental for the environment, supporting previous research which has shown that reducing calorie intake is equally as important for maintaining a sustainable diet as reducing meat intake.

We don’t always trust research conducted by a University which shares its name with a fruit but this time we’re taking notice!

Find out more about this study here:

Sarah Cowen-Rivers is studying for an MSc in Science Communication

Image by Anna Blazic Pavlovic