A new poll suggests that education is all that stops most Americans from embracing plant-based diets that are better for the planet.
The poll, of just over 1,000 adults nationwide, found that 51% said they would eat more plant-based foods if they knew more about the environmental impacts of their eating habits, but 70% said they rarely or never discuss this issue with friends or family.
Nearly two-thirds said they'd never been asked to eat more plant-based foods, and more than half rarely or never hear about the topic in the media.
In addition, more than half said they're willing to eat more vegetables and plant-based alternatives and/or less red meat.
Even though only 4% self-identified as vegan or vegetarian, 20% said they chose plant-based dairy alternatives two to five times a week or more often, and about the same percentage said they didn't buy products from food companies that aren't taking measures to reduce their environmental impact.
Along with a lack of information, other barriers to eating more plant-based foods include perceived cost, taste and accessibility, according to the survey findings from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the Earth Day Network.
For example, 49% of respondents believed a meal with a plant-based main course is more expensive than a meal with a meat-based main course, and many said they would eat more plant-based foods if they cost less than meat products (63%) and if they tasted better (67%).
"Many American consumers are interested in eating a more healthy and climate-friendly diet," Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, said in a Yale news release.
"However, many simply don't know yet which products are better or worse -- a huge communication opportunity for food producers, distributors and sellers," Leiserowitz explained.
According to Jillian Semaan, food and environment director for Earth Day Network, "This data is a wake-up call for the climate movement. Animal agriculture is one of the major drivers of our climate crisis. We need to provide people with the relevant information that connects food choices, animal agriculture and climate change."
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on plant-based eating.