What’s Better for the Planet: Going Solar or Going Vegan?

By Heather Moore

When salespeople knocked on my door a year ago to sell me solar panels, I initially declined, explaining that I couldn’t afford them and that I was already doing my part to combat the climate catastrophe by being vegan. But when they asked if I’d be open to hearing more information, I agreed, mostly out of curiosity. Six months later, I had solar panels installed on my home.

Although I’m glad I did it, I stand by my original statement that being vegan is the best way to protect the planet—in addition to helping animals, improving your health, and saving money. I don’t discourage anyone from going solar, but if you look at the big picture, going vegan—as I did 32 years ago—has a much greater positive impact.

I recently received an e-mail notifying me that in 2023, my solar system had produced 5,500 kWh of electricity, which is “equivalent to offsetting the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as 5 acres of forest in one year.”

Meanwhile, just one day of vegan eating per week (52 days a year) can save nearly 143 kilograms of CO2 per year and one vegan week per month (12 weeks a year) can save nearly 231 kilograms of CO2 per year. Just think of all the emissions you could prevent by committing to healthy vegan eating every single day!

It’s an impressive savings for animals and the planet. University of Oxford researchers have found that vegans are responsible for about 75% less greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and land use than people who eat meat and other animal-derived foods.

Adopting a vegan lifestyle will make you a climate change crusader. You’ll slash your carbon footprint, conserve water like a pro, and defend life while using resources in a more sustainable way.

Of course, vegans alsospare sentient individuals a miserable life and a violent, painful death—it’s estimated that each vegan spares the lives of nearly 200 pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and other animals every year.

You can’t say that about solar panels!

Being vegan also has health benefits that installing solar panels obviously doesn’t have. Eating foods that come from plants rather than from animals reduces your risk of developing heart disease, strokes, diabetes, various types of cancer, and other health problems. Moreover, vegan foods have never caused a pandemic, but confining and killing farmed animals leads to the spread of pathogens that cause animal-borne illnesses, such as bird flu, swine flu, and the novel coronavirus that led to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The solar sales reps assured me that going solar would reduce my electric bill, although I probably wouldn’t see the savings for a year or two.

Two years? Being vegan saves me money every time I go grocery shopping. A recent study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that people who go vegan cut their food bill by 16%. On average, they save $500 per year just by ditching meat, cheese, and other animal-based foods. And if you factor in the money vegans likely save by not spending it on statins, blood pressure pills, and other medical expenses incurred due to conditions caused by eating fatty, cholesterol-laden animal-derived foods, going vegan offers huge savings across a lifetime.

Going solar is great, but going vegan is the best way to reduce animal suffering, protect the environment, and prevent some of the worst human health problems—even when it’s cloudy.