February 25, 2010 (12:09 am)

Go Vegan & You’re Going Green – Booyah!

topics: Green Eating
by Kristen Suzanne

There are three main reasons that people live a vegan lifestyle: Animal Rights - Health - Environment. Some people focus on one and some focus on all three. Personally, my primary reason for going vegan was for animal rights. I had always been interested in healthy living, so that was a major bonus. But when I learned about the ways it helps the environment, I was blown away.

For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to break it down for you Green Style, and write about how going vegan helps the environment.

One of my favorite t-shirts. I wear it with pride.

Before I begin, I want to define what living a vegan lifestyle means. Basically, when I call myself a vegan it means that I eschew consuming/ purchasing all animal products and by-products (this includes food, body care products, furniture, clothing, etc). So, it means no eggs, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no wool, no honey, no silk, no leather, etc. It even means that some beers and wines are a no-no (look for the “vegan” label on it – see my blog post here about vegan wines). If it comes from an animal, I don’t buy it. Now, let me clarify something. I do have leather purses and shoes in my closet, and our car has leather seats. All of these things were purchased prior to going vegan, and even though I don’t use the purses or shoes, I find it wasteful to throw them out and replace them. That wouldn’t be very environmental. Some have sentimental value to me so I’m fine with just letting them stay in my closet. As for the car, well, we need our car and we’re not about to replace it because it has leather seats. That being said, we don’t purchase anything going forward that has animal products or by-products in it.

How does living a vegan lifestyle reduce your carbon footprint? Oh let me count the ways we’re helping our beautiful planet!

An organic vegan diet can significantly reduce greenhouse gases. There are different factors that can come into play. For example, if you eat a vegan diet, but you consume lots of foods grown conventionally in other countries, then it’s not as reduced as if you ate a vegan diet that is local and organic. Nonetheless, it’s a massively reduced carbon footprint to eat plants instead of animals.

According to GoVeg.com,

A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined. And, eating 1 pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles.

Water: “In 2000, the World Commission on Water predicted that the increase in water use in the future due to rising population will ‘impose intolerable stresses on the environment, leading not only to a loss of biodiversity, but also to a vicious circle in which the stresses on the ecosystem [will] no longer provide the services [necessary] for plants and people.’” (John Robbins’ book, The Food Revolution.) How is eating animals attacking our water supply? According to vegsource.com, “To date, probably the most reliable and widely-accepted water estimate to produce a pound of beef is the figure of 2,500 gallons/pound. Newsweek once put it another way: ‘the water that goes into a 1,000 pound steer would float a destroyer.’ Not surprisingly, the beef industry promotes a study that determined, using highly suspect calculations, that only 441 gallons of water are required to produce a pound of beef.”

Have you heard of the Ogallala aquifer (also known as the High Plains aquifer)? It’s believed to be the largest body of fresh water on earth and stretches from Texas to South Dakota. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, it’s in danger. You see, it’s a fossil aquifer which means that the water is from the melted glaciers of the last Ice Age. The problem is that since the beginning of factory farming, we’re using more and more of this precious resource and some estimates say it could dry up in 25 years. According to John Robbins, more water is taken from it for beef than is used to grow all the fruits and vegetables in the entire country. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. (The water eventually ends up in the oceans, where it’s no longer usable.)

Pollution: Factory farming greatly contributes to the destruction of our topsoil and is a huge source of pollution. It’s pretty disgusting actually. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “The contamination of the nation’s waterways from [pork] manure run-off is extremely serious. Twenty tons of [pork and other] livestock manure are produced for every household in the country.” Heck, just look at the increase of plant-food recalls due to E. Coli, often seen in outbreaks involving hamburger meat. It hardly seems fair that my organic spinach could become tainted because of factory farming. Arghh!

Destruction of Tropical Rainforests: The rainforest is the home to countless species of amazing animals and potentially lifesaving medicines. But, we’re destroying it at a rapid rate… all for a friggin’ artery-clogging burger. John Robbins writes, “Every second, an area the size of a football field is destroyed forever…” and the number one reason for this destruction is to make room for grazing cattle. This is a double-whammy: cutting down the trees that remove CO2 from the atmosphere to make room for cows that pump millions of tons of methane into the atmosphere. While increasing heart disease and obesity. It’s utter insanity… I want to weep when I think about it.

I could go on and on with facts upon facts. The bottom line is that our increased population and its habits are destroying our home, earth. It’s not as if we have an alternate planet, like Pandora (pictured here) in the movie Avatar, waiting for us to move to. No, we need to work on saving what we have now, here on earth. There are various ways to help slow this destruction, and living a vegan lifestyle is HUGE. It isn’t hard. In fact, I love it. I’m very proud of my lifestyle and how it’s reduced my carbon footprint. I feel amazing as a result. I’ve written in detail about how this awesome lifestyle has touched me mentally, physically and spiritually here in this blog post.

I’m not sure how many of my readers are vegan, but I understand that it can take time to change. For me it was over the course of a week, which isn’t always the case for others. I was reading the book, Diet for a New America, and by the time I finished the book, I was a vegan. In fact, while reading the book in Starbucks on my many occasions, people came up to me and said, “That book will change your life.” Pretty powerful. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, along with John Robbins’ other book, The Food Revolution. These books are truly life-changing. They are filled with compelling information about how a vegan lifestyle can help your health, animals, and the earth beyond anything you ever knew. While I’m at it, there are a couple of other great books that can really get you fired up about a plant-based diet: The China Study and Skinny Bitch. (It was The China Study which really moved my husband into the vegan lifestyle.)

I’m here to help! Please visit my other blog, Kristen’s Raw for great, easy, delicious, and high energy vegan recipes that can help make this lifestyle super-duper fun. And, feel free to ask me questions in the comment section below. Baby steps are perfectly fine if that is what it takes. You can make changes one meal at a time or one day at a time. Perhaps you make all of your breakfasts and lunches vegan or eat 100% vegan 2 days a week. Every time you say no to animal products, you’re helping our earth. It’s a wonderful thing! Do it for yourself. Do it for your family and loved ones. Do it for your planet!

(P.S. Perhaps you’re already vegan, or heading in that direction, and you wonder about thesocial implications of dating a carnivore. Check out my blog post over at my Kristen’s Raw blog To Date Or Not To Date A Carnivore for my story and some tips. Oh, and one more thing… for those of you who get asked about protein on a vegan diet, or who have questions yourselves, check out what my husband does to keep his super sexy vegan physique.)

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Kristen Suzanne is a Raw food chef and author who blogs about all things green and mommy-related! More...

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