Eating a vegetarian diet has always been a great way to be healthy, eat lower on the food chain, and, like Mom always said, eat your veggies. As more and more research has been done, it turns out that vegetarian diets are also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, too.
Exactly how much you can cut your carbon footprint depends on a number of factors -- mostly how much meat (and other animal products) you cut out of your diet, and how strictly you're willing to stick to the plant-based diet. Let's crunch the numbers.
First of all, here are a few assumptions, based on a study out of the University of Chicago in 2006, called "Diet, Energy, and Global Warming" (pdf): The average U.S. diet gets 47 percent of its calories from animal sources, resulting a carbon footprint of 2.52 tons per year. Eating a diet heavier in read meat -- about 50 percent of a diet's calories -- results in a carbon footprint of 3.57 tons. Eating a diet where 25 percent of the calories come from fish, but no other meat, results in a carbon footprint of about 1 ton. So, both the type of foods -- red meat, fish, poultry, etc. -- and the amount of those foods have a bearing on your diet's carbon footprint.