How a Vegan Diet Can Help Save the Planet
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord. Fifty-five United Nation countries collectively signed the agreement in November 2016 in an effort to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. When the news broke that Trump was out, I honestly wasn't surprised. I felt that familiar sinking feeling when yet another act of progress championed by the Obama administration has been intentionally unraveled by the new president.
Trump explained that he did it because he valued American manufacturing jobs over everything else, to include the health and future of the planet. This message comes from someone who's administration has not actually acknowledged climate change as a reality, and frequently used the term "hoax" to describe EPA data on its own government website. Not to mention that the biggest threat to traditional manufacturing jobs is automation, not climate change regulation. So what does this mean for those of us who do believe in climate change and understand what a huge disappointment this was in the battle for fighting global warming?
When president Trump withdrew US involvement in the accord, he made a statement to the rest of the world, that barring some sort of financial benefit, the US does not care to engage in collective movements for the good of others--i.e. non-Americans. As the unmatched leader in terms of wealth and military prowess, the US stands as an example of what other countries aspire to become. By opting out of an agreement promoting clear and defined goals of a cleaner earth, it shows a lack of concern and will no doubt encourage other nations to take on the same isolationist mindset. Those in leadership set the tone for everyone else, whether it's a corporation, a field office, a soccer team, or a nation. It's the same everywhere. Trump's selfish and short-sighted withdrawal is a huge step backward for positive relations around the world, and for our planet.
For those of us at home who understand this and were disappointed--Elon Musk announced he was leaving Trump's advisory council, there is still something we can do. By talking about climate change, and the effect that this withdrawal will have on the US and the world, we bring attention to it. When you bring light to anything, it has an impact. Additionally, Trump's withdrawal was so shocking that it has sparked more debate and focus onto combating climate change at home. Individuals who may not have spent much time thinking about global warming, or from where the majority of it is generated, are now researching and talking with friends and co-workers about it and what can be done despite disastrous governmental actions. That's progress.
What people discover when conducting research on climate change, is that the majority of the greenhouse gases are not from cars or factories, but from animal agriculture. The fastest route therefore to fighting back, is to stop buying meat and animal products. By one person going vegan for a year, hundreds of animal's lives and over 400,000 gallons of water are saved. Additionally, the methane gas produced by cows and pigs--which is 23 times more damaging than CO2 and the biggest threat to the ozone layer, is seriously reduced. So now equipped with the data, what can we do?
Even if you're not currently vegan, there are still small manageable steps you can take today that will create a real impact.
- Try eliminating meat from one meal a day. Since my transition to becoming vegan last year, my husband and kids have greatly reduced their meat and dairy intake, most notably from breakfast. We were a household that would eat bacon and eggs regularly, now my family sticks to oatmeal, grits, peanut butter toast, and fruit in the morning--it was a simple change that my family could easily accept. And according to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week, the CO2 emission reduction would be the same as taking half a million cars off the road. It just shows how simple changes in our everyday lives can and do make a huge impact. We are not helpless observers to the wrongs of those in power.
- Incorporate an entire day without consuming meat, more commonly known as "Meatless Mondays". If everyone in the US engaged in Meatless Monday for one day, it would equal a reduction of 1.2 million tons of CO2, 3 million tons of soil erosion, 4.5 million tons of animal excrement, and 7 tons of ammonia emissions. This was great way to encourage my husband to try new dishes and reinvent his old trusted recipes in new and interesting ways. Additionally, our grocery bill was greatly reduced. I was amazed at how far our money went after we eliminated beef, chicken, pork, and eggs from the cart. It took actually going to the store and seeing it in real life to fully appreciate how much further our dollar was going while simultaneously eating significantly healthier.
- Lastly, as humans it's a well-known fact that we're wired to connect. Seek out a community that supports your desire to learn more about plant-based diets and connect with them online. Facebook has a myriad of groups like "Vegans United" and "My Vegucation" that offer support and information from real people who have felt a similar call to make a change in support of the environment despite heavy cultural and traditional opposition. On Instagram, search hashtags like #meatlessmondays, #veganbreakfast, or #veganrecipes, for more inspiration and motivation. The vegan community is growing everyday, and it is one of the most welcoming, passionate, and intelligent groups I've ever encountered.
Currently the US is responsible for over 15% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. If our president refuses to participate in a global effort to ensure that our children and grandchildren have a sustainable planet, and enough food and water to exist when they grow up, we as citizens have to take responsibility for the future onto ourselves. The truth is that we cannot change his mind or his administration's agenda, but we can make small changes in our own lives, like the ones detailed above, that taken together as a country, can and will change the fate of the world and the future health of the planet.