Study: Want to save the planet? Don’t have children

LUND, Sweden — Recent research has unveiled the four best ways to completely minimize your own greenhouse gas emissions and keep the planet healthy. The most significant tactic? It may also be the most shocking: Have less children!

Researchers from Lund University and the University of British Columbia studied 39 peer-reviewed research articles and government-sourced statistic reports in order to identify the most efficient ways to personally benefit the environment.

Man kissing pregnant woman's belly
Sorry parents: A new study finds that the most impactful thing a person can do to help keep the planet healthy is to have less children.

The amount of people on this planet plays a tremendous role on greenhouse gases. The researchers determined that having one fewer child can save up to nearly 60 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

In addition to avoiding procreation, the team found these three environment-efficient personal lifestyle changes to be the most beneficial: Eat healthier, reduce air travel, and ditch your vehicle.

“There are so many factors that affect the climate impact of personal choices, but bringing all these studies side-by-side gives us confidence we’ve identified actions that make a big difference,” says lead author Seth Wynes, a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, in a press release. “Those of us who want to step forward on climate need to know how our actions can have the greatest possible impact. This research is about helping people make more informed choices.”

Choosing to eat healthy foods is rewarding to your own body as well as the planet. Switching to a plant-based diet is beneficial due to the enormous amounts of emissions that are produced from livestock as well as food retailers. According to this study, focusing on a plant-based diet can be four times more effective than recycling.

Traveling isn’t exactly simple to avoid as we all deserve to get away every now and again. But minimizing emissions from travel is easily one of the most significant. A single round-trip transatlantic flight produces 1.6 metric tons of emissions, while driving an average car for a year produces about two-and-a-half metric tons.

The study suggests that not driving is eleven times more effective than recycling.

The researchers also found that these for personal lifestyle choices are usually overlooked in school textbooks and media suggestions. Instead, the focus is usually on smaller, less efficient actions such as minimizing electricity use or recycling plastic and cans.

Lund University associate professor Kimberly Nicholas, who co-authored the study, acknowledges that although the lifestyle changes maybe be hard at first, they are extremely beneficial to people around the world.

“We recognize that these are deeply personal choices. But we can’t ignore the climate effect our lifestyle actually has. Personally, I’ve found it really positive to make many of these changes,’ she says. “It’s especially important for young people establishing lifelong patterns to be aware which choices have the biggest impact. We hope this information sparks discussion and empowers individuals.”

The research was published this week in the journal Environmental Science Letters.