Introducing Emily Xu's "My Fantasy Environment: A Narrative Cartography Project"

Veganism and Its Relations to Carbon Footprint

The fantasy environment created in the map showcases how veganism is seen globally as well as how carbon emissions and footprint are closely related to one’s diet. Veganism is a lifestyle that has been around for decades, however, during recent years, it has become significantly more popular amongst environmentalists and people in general. Scientific research has proved that “livestock farming produces 20%-50% of all man-made greenhouse emissions” (Jane, 2020), so eating meat is a huge factor in the increase of carbon footprint and carbon emissions. The map compares the vegan population in four different areas as well as the carbon emissions per capita and explains why practicing veganism positively contributes to the decline of carbon emissions.

At first, I wanted to compare all of the United States to China, however, I soon realized that there are many places in both countries that contain very few vegans and comparing both would be way too broad. Therefore, I settled on comparing Washington and Oregon to Shanghai and Beijing: two states and cities that are rated the most vegan-friendly within their respective countries, thus, producing a fair comparison of veganism and carbon emissions. Oregon is rated the most vegan state in America according to People Of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Washington ranked number nine on the list (PETA, 2019). On the other hand, it may seem like China does not have many vegans, but actually, around fifty million people of the population is vegan (Dean, 2014). Both Shanghai and Beijing are the two most flourished cities in China with a vast number of youngsters who are more informed on the benefits of vegan cuisine so, during recent years, an increasing number of vegan restaurants have opened up as well. Unfortunately, I was unable to find information on the number of vegans existing in Oregon, Washington, Shanghai, and Beijing, so I decided to map the vegan restaurants instead and mark the carbon emissions in each area to further compare the results of veganism. Through my cartography process, I noticed that there are still many places in these regions where veganism is rarely practiced, so to make the map cleaner and clearer, I only mapped the areas where veganism is more prominent.

When carbon emissions or carbon footprint are discussed, the first thing that comes to mind is the usage of fossil fuels, but we tend to disregard how our diets can affect carbon footprint as well. Many people are unaware of how eating meat affects our carbon footprint and how factory farms negatively impact the environment. Helen Christophi from Sierra Club states that meat production is one of the biggest contributors to carbon footprint due to methane emissions released from livestock, in fact, “producing meat uses 20 times the land and emits 20 times the emissions as growing beans” (Leahy, 2019). Furthermore, a 2018 study found that if veganism is adopted globally, it could cut the total global greenhouse emissions by 28% of which half would come from the reduction of methane and nitrous oxide produced by animals. Therefore, if each individual chooses to decrease the amount of meat intake in their daily lives, there will be a slow yet steady progress towards the long-time goal of near-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In contrast to traditional maps, this map intends to portray how veganism is seen around the world and how adopting it can positively affect our carbon footprint. While there are maps on the internet that showcase how vegan a state or city is, there are no maps that show how veganism benefits the reduction of carbon emissions. Moreover, this map displays the efforts of spreading veganism on a global scale to reduce carbon emissions, which is something that remains a void in cartography.

Carbon footprint is something that applies to everyone and is extremely crucial in the present day. Carbon emissions and climate change are not problems that will get solved on their own; everyone must contribute for there to be progress. With China and America being the top countries that produce the most carbon emissions, it is important to be educated on actions the citizens have taken to help lessen the emissions and how others can contribute to that cause as well. However, the maps created only focused on parts of the country that are the most vegan-friendly, so there are still many places where veganism is barely exercised. Although China has a vegan population of fifty million people, they are still the country with the most CO2 emissions in the world. Similarly, the United States has around 9.6 million vegans but still ranks number two in the world with the most carbon emissions (Kirkwood, 2020). As indicated on the map, the carbon emissions per capita in Shanghai and Beijing, are significantly less than the emissions in Oregon and Seattle, so although China ranks first with the most CO2 emissions in the world, the citizens are taking deliberate actions to retain the losses. As such, veganism may be adopted globally to help diminish carbon emissions, however, we cannot rely solely on that. To further cut emissions, all citizens of the world must take action to lessen the usage of fossil fuels in factories and homes.

Generally, environmental studies examines how human interaction affects the environment, and although this map is similar to that concept, it is specifically focused on the diets of humans and how that affects carbon footprint and emissions. Individuals tend to believe that their diet would not drastically affect the environment because there will be people who are willing to do more work than the average person to change the environment. However, reducing carbon emissions is a global effort and cannot be achieved if only a third of the world participates. Transitioning to a fully vegan diet is hard for many people and is completely understandable if one is unable to do so. Nevertheless, eating less meat and exploring vegan eateries or incorporating vegan lifestyles can positively attribute to the environment as well.

In conclusion, this map is designed to highlight the popular vegan areas in America and China along with how veganism benefits the process of decreasing carbon emissions on a global scale. The damage carbon emissions have done to the environment is uncanny and it is our responsibility, as citizens of the world, to protect the environment that we have damaged in order to promise a safe living for the future.


Oregon (Top) vs Washington (Bottom):

Shanghai (Top) vs Beijing (Bottom):


- Christophi, Helen. “Does Knowing the Carbon Footprint of Meat Make Us Eat Less of It?” Sierra Club, 16 Mar. 2020,

- Dean, Tommy. “China's Vegan Population Is Largest in the World.”, 12 Jan. 2014,

Jane. “Food's Carbon Footprint.” Green Eatz, 27 Sept. 2020,

- Jing Dai Gao Seng Tai Dei Kai Shi Ji. “上海.素食餐厅.地图大全.” 微信公众平台, 18 July 2017,

- Kirkwood, Brandon. “New Study Reveals 9.6 Million Americans Are Vegan Now, A 300% Increase!” Vegan News, 6 Mar. 2020,

Leahy, Stephen. “Choosing Chicken over Beef Cuts Our Carbon Footprints a Surprising Amount.” Environment, 10 June 2019,

- Liu, Zhu. China's Carbon Emission Report 2016: Regional Carbon Emissions and the Implication for China’s Low Carbon Development. 2016,

- “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets and Market-Based Policies, 2019,

- “These Are the Top 10 Vegan Friendly Cities of 2016.” PETA, 7 Nov. 2019,

- “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” State-Level Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2005-2016, 27 Feb. 2019,

- “Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Oregon, OR.”,

- “Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants in Washington, WA.”,

- Yi Su Jie. “收藏贴: 北京的这123家素食餐厅!每天吃一家,连续四个月不带重样!.” 微信公众平台, 22 Jan. 2019,

89 views0 comments