Eating vegan: From little environmental changes, big things grow
Flexitarian, vegan-ish, plant eater, moof doof (I actually just made that one up, but it has a good meat-free dairy-free ring to it) — these are all terms that at some point I have used to explain our current diet.
Funnily enough, everyone thinks I must be one of those extreme animal rights protectors, but unfortunately I can’t claim to be so moral. Here’s the real story.
Three years ago, I ate meat at every meal and sniggered quietly behind my vegan friends’ backs. So what changed?
It started with plastic. I read something that said we were putting BPA into our kids’ bodies by letting them eat food out of plastic containers, so out the window went the plastic containers.
This led to thinking about the other toxins plastic leaches into the environment, and our bodies, so that meant buying stuff as plastic-free as possible.
Then came the moment when I attended a climate talk and they showed us what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (made up of well-regarded scientists) were saying.
We have 10 years — 10 years to cut our carbon emissions drastically, or else we are set for massive temperature rises and a huge increase in natural disasters.
I have kids — two of them. This sunk in like nothing else has. I went home and looked up how to cut our emissions.
Limiting food waste was one of the top ones but we were actually doing pretty well at that already (thanks to a penny-pinching upbringing).
The next-biggest way to cut carbon emissions is to reduce beef, lamb, pork and dairy products ... not so good.
And it’s not all about the land use. Actually, it’s the animal “burps” that produce most of the carbon emissions.
Unfortunately, grass-fed meat and dairy products are still pretty poor on emissions.
This had us thrown. I daresay we actually felt a bit angry at having to change our lifestyle to help the planet.
We started off slow, just cutting back on meat one or two nights a week. Then it got easier as we found good substitutes like seitan (wheat gluten), roasted cauliflower, a growing number of vegan options at the supermarket, and treating ourselves to more sustainable meat like kangaroo and chicken.
Experimenting with dairy-free milk and cheese caused even more breakfast tantrums (mostly mine), but now I prefer my almond cheese toastie.
We’re not perfect. My other half still succumbs to a chop every now and then. But I know we have tried, and if that’s all I can say in years to come when my kids say “well, why didn’t you do anything about it?”, then that’s good enough for me.
Vivienne Lobo is a member of Midwest Carbon Zero
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