If Babies Mean Higher Carbon Footprints, Should We Stop Reproducing?

New research shows that the best way to keep your carbon footprint low is to keep baby-making at bay.


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We try our best to do what we can to keep our carbon footprints low. We buy produce locally, eliminate meat from our diets, drink from reusable stainless-steel water bottles, and use efficient modes of transportation. The biggest impact one can make, however, may be to avoid having children.

According to a newly released Oregon State University study, having a child impacts the environment significantly more than any other energy-saving behavior. Using the example of an American woman who takes action to reduce her footprint by investing in an energy-efficient car and recycling (among other things), the report states that if that woman has two children, her carbon footprint will rise to 20 times what she had saved from her do-gooder actions. Geographical location also plays a role, as an American woman who has a child will create more than five times the carbon footprint of a Chinese woman with a child.

In 2008, the United Nations Population Fund released global fertility rates per woman. Afghanistan came in with the highest average at 7.3 children, and Germany came in at the lowest with 1.3. The US stood at 2.0 children per woman, while China came in at a 1.7 average. With US rates of birth already higher than China’s, the effects of American women having children may create an unmeasurably large carbon impact.

VegNews asked women across America to weigh in on the hot issue of baby making with this question: “Considering all the environmental, ethical, and social reasons for being veg, do you have or plan on having children?”

“I chose to have one child and to teach him all the wonderful aspects of being an activist and working toward positive change. I set an example for him everyday by being compassionate about the earth and all of its living creatures, and hope that he, too, will choose this path in life.”
Julie Martinez, Placentia, Calif.

“Having children is inconsistent with an environmental/ vegan/animal-rights agenda. Overpopulation is at the core of all the problems we address. And who is to say your child will not decide to become carnivorous at some point in their life? We ultimately have no control of that.”
Teresa D’Amico, New York City, NY

“My mother once said that if all the ethical people chose not to have children while the unethical people did, it would wipe out a whole generation of people who could make a difference in the world. I think this argument still holds up.”
Sydney Richey, Hillsboro, Ore.

“There are too many humans on this planet for it to support our consumption rates. Habitat loss, species destruction, dependence on monoculture, and GMO crops all take place in the name of feeding the masses. I can’t ethically justify having children.”
Melissa Swanson, St. Paul, Minn.

The baby debate is obviously highly individualized with both sides having solid arguments, but the facts are undeniable. Where do you stand?