Ellen Whitney
December 19, 2016
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Why Eat Vegan: An Environmental Perspective

When people ask me about my diet, I tell them I’m vegan, followed by, “Well, I’m
90% vegan.” That usually prompts a snide comment such as, “Oh, so you just
choose when you want to care or not?” And my response to that is, I’m not
perfect, and the stress I’d have over trying to be perfect would be worse for me
than any food I could consume. At some point a line must be drawn between
minimizing detriment on the world, and the amount of ill those efforts cause me
as the individual.

When it comes to climate change, a lot of anti-vegans use the fact that the
elimination of meat from their diet wouldn’t be enough to make an impact on the
environment, so what’s the point? In my eyes, that point of view is a cop out. I
believe we can and should try to minimize the damage we cause, knowing that
every step in the right direction adds up. Basically, causing harm is an inevitable
part of living in our modern world. I turn my lights on, I drive a gas-powered car,
and hell, I kill trees everyday by using toilet paper. The amount of energy it takes
to live in our society only continues to grow, so while I originally went vegan for
nutritional reasons, now that I’ve learned more about sustainability and climate
change, I can’t ever see myself returning to a diet that isn’t rooted in plants.

Admittedly, I used to be anti-vegan. I felt attacked by several advocates who
would “preach” their point of view to me, not realizing that forcing their opinions
on me only made me shut down to their argument even more. Seriously, try to
have a conversation with anyone about climate change, and they just tune out.
So, I’m not here to tell you you’re a horrible person if you eat meat. I’m not here
to ruin your lunch by exposing how that meat was made. All I’m advocating for is
an open mind- it wasn’t until I was personally ready to hear the facts about
veganism that the words began to resonate, and I then started to change my
thoughts on the subject. I believe so long as we all stay aware of the impact of our
actions, and the potential for external gain by changing them, we will make more
mindful decisions.

You may be wondering now, what are the facts? For starters, the animal agriculture
industry is the biggest source of climate change in the world. The production of
just half a hamburger creates equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as running an air
conditioner for 24 hours. Additionally, it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce
a mere 1-pound of beef, 477 gallons to produce 1 pound of eggs, and almost 900 gallons
of water to make 1 pound of cheese. And with emissions of agriculture expected to
increase 80% by 2050, it’s up to us to start making a change to protect the future
of our world. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water,
45 pounds of grain, 20 lbs. CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.

So how do you even attempt to transition your well-accustomed lifestyle to
something completely opposite? Step one- don’t try to be perfect. If you want to
eat something that has an animal product in it- go for it- I can tell you I sure have
with some indulgences this holiday season. What matters is that we make
conscious choices to try to reduce the harm we do to our planet. Start by making
a mindful decision to reduce animal products in one meal a day. Let that turn in
to one entire day a week, and so on. Choose to walk to the store down the street
instead of making the 60-second drive. When you leave a room, turn the lights
off. It’s really that simple.

At the end of the day, I know veganism is the best diet in terms of environmental
well being, plant welfare, and good health for me. Being vegan, or simply trying
to reduce your impact on the Earth in whatever way you choose, requires a lot of
effort, so be gentle and don’t torture yourself along the way about the details.
Just as with our fitness goals, when it comes to environmental change, we must
strive for progress, not perfection.

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