So, you’re thinking about going plant-based? Heck yeah, friend! Whether it’s for health, animal rights, or environmental reasons, I cannot encourage you enough to embark on this journey! I became a vegetarian about 10 years ago, and then went full plant-based in 2017. As Zen masterThich Nhat Hanh has said, “making the transition to a plant-based diet may be the most effective way an individual can stop climate change."
Here are some studies, materials, and tips to make your plant-based transition supported and smooth. Let’s get into it!
Something I have found incredibly helpful and influential in my sustainability journey isProject Drawdown, a nonprofit that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. It’s the most comprehensive plan to combat climate change, and includes the top 100 solutions to reduce/eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Drawdown, eating a plant-rich diet is thethird solution that we can implement to combat climate change. Here’s why:
The meat-centric Western diet comes with a steep climate price tag: one-fifth of global emissions. If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
According to a 2016 study, business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet and 63 percent for a vegetarian diet, which includes cheese, milk, and eggs. $1 trillion in annual health-care costs and lost productivity would be saved.
Also critical: ending price-distorting government subsidies, such as those benefiting the U.S. livestock industry, so that the prices of animal protein more accurately reflect their true cost.
A film that also shaped my environmental journey is “Before the Flood.” Leonardo DiCaprio interviewed experts around the world who were creating solutions to combat climate change. You can either watch the full filmHERE, or fast forward to 50:57.
Some quick facts:
Beef is one of the most inefficient uses of resources on the planet.
In the US, 47% of land us used for food production.
70% of that is land to grow food for cattle.
The things we eat (fruit, veg, nuts) are 1%.
Cows produce methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas (23x more harmful than CO2)
10-12% of the TOTAL US emissions are due to beef.
Beef requires 50x more land than growing vegetables.
The scientist suggests, “maybe not everyone is ready to eat tofu, I get that. But even if you just have to have some flesh between your teeth, if you switch to chicken, you can eliminate 80% of the emissions (depending on where you live).”
And lastly, listen to this NPR “How I Built This” podcast featuring Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat. He makes some excellent points about the impact of animal agriculture and methane gas, and how we cannot sustain a growing projected population of 9+ billion people on a meat diet.
5 THINGS I’ve learned about being plant-based that I recommend to everyone just getting started:
PROTEIN - this whole thing about needing to eat your weight in grams of protein everyday is bogus. There are several studies on centurions (people who are living to be 100+) and let me tell ya, they’re not eating a protein heavy diet. Check outBlue Zones for more.
BEANS- You do need protein! But not as much as the American media wants you to believe. So for your plant-based protein, I recommend the magical fruit - beans! There are so many different kinds and different ways to prepare them, it’s a fun, delicious way to get your protein when you’re hungry for it. The best part about beans, is you can buy them SUPER CHEAP in bulk - which means saving money and saving plastic packaging! If you have a pressure cooker or an InstaPot, you can cook raw beans into fully-cooked delicious beans in just 25 minutes! Get your hands on this FREE copy of “Vegans Under Pressure” to get a bean cooking chart, as well as TONS of other yummy vegan recipes.
PLANT MILKS - Now I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone anymore that dairy is absolutely terrible for you. And, oh yeah, we artificially inseminate female cows and then separate them from their babies after they give birth to keep them pumping milk. Show me the ethics in that? But good news - plant milks are DELICIOUS! There are now dozens you can pick from. There’s something to be said about nut milks because nuts do require quite a bit of water and resources to grow, however it doesn’t NEARLY compare to the dairy milk alternatives. Oats require significantly less land and water than nuts, so oat milk has been getting a ton of attention recently, which is amazing! If you’re into this kind of thing, you can also make your own! See my recipehere. There’s also handy products likeJOI that are essentially nut butter that you high-speed blend with water and have handmade nut milk in just a few seconds.
ORGANIC- I’ll be the first to tell you that I would give a serious eye roll to people who told me they only ate organic. I thought it was for wealthy families who lived in Pacific Palisades and only shopped at Erewhon. But then I listened to this Rich Roll podcastwith Zach Bush and watched this film,The Need to Grow, and I ate my judgement right up. Long story short, when we grow conventional crops and spray them with chemical pesticides + insecticides, we kill all of the amazing microorganisms on the plants and beneath the soil. Those chemicals then make their way into the makeup of the produce, and into our bellies. Which totally annihilates our healthy gut biome, and we see that show up with early diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome in young people across the country. Not only that, but these chemicals kill off the necessary microorganisms and their activity in the soil, which are essential for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. The killer cherry on top? All of these chemical pesticides and fertilizers make their way into our watersheds and rivers and createdead zones in our oceans. Want to barf? Research those and you’ll never eat a conventional piece of produce again. Now I want to completely acknowledge that organic produce is not available everywhere, and food deserts are a systematically racial and environmental injustice, so when you can and when it’s nearby, choose organic.CSA’s and local farmers markets are a great place to start!
FIVE SERVINGS - Instead of thinking about how plant-based is going to make you stop eating things, try to frame your perspective for the things you’ll get toadd to your diet. A good place to start is making sure youadd five servings of fruits and veggies throughout the day. Soon enough, I promise, you’ll start to crave them! An easy way to sneak in servings is to have a green smoothie in the mornings with a full serving of greens and a fruit. Grab a piece of fruit as a snack (keeping them nearby, or cut up in the fridge is a great way to do this!), and load up a big yummy salad with beans for lunch or dinner, and you’re already at five! The more colorful your plate, the better. Get creative with red onions, beets, yellow bell peppers, radishes, herbs, avocados, heirloom tomatoes, cauliflower - plants are so freaking colorful and beautiful! A tip fromNo Meat Athlete is to have a BEAN, a GREEN, and a GRAIN on your dinner plate.
And lastly, here are some materials you can watch / read / follow for more vegan inspiration. You can also find a full list of my sustainable recommendations on THIS post.
Lauren Ferree (ReLauren) is an environmentalist and video producer from Los Angeles. Being born + raised in California, Lauren has always had an affinity to the beach and ocean, and protecting these playgrounds was her entry into the environmental space as she plugged into the Surfrider Foundation. She then received a post-grad certificate at UCLA in Sustainability, which switched her activism into high gear. She has dedicated her social media channels to educating others on plastic pollution and the climate crisis, while sharing inspiring sustainable steps we as individuals can do to raise our voices, demand action, and be the change we wish to see in the world. Lauren also loves cooking delicious plant-based meals, hanging in her mom's oasis of a garden, snagging a rad thrifted find, and good ole conversations with friends (typically shared over a warm cup of coffee).
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