Environmentalism in the Kitchen: How a Plant-Based Diet Can Reduce Emissions… and be Delicious

Ms. Sarah Clauss, CVC Environmental Correspondent

When they think of emissions, most people think of cars and trucks and things that go. But our diet can have a huge effect on our carbon footprint. Livestock and their byproducts account for 51 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the World Watch Institute. Essentially, the meat-lovers pizza you order might cost you more carbon than your ride home after.

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What can we do? I discussed environmental food choices with CVU student Ali Drew, who decided to cut all animal products out of her diet after watching a speech by vegan activist Gary Yourofsky. The main points addressed by Yourofsky included the environmental impacts and the ethics of consuming meat and other animal products. (His speech can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5hGQDLprA8&vl=en.) Drew says that it was difficult trying to replace foods, but she realized that it would be easier to find new vegan foods. A diet without animal products also reduces the amount of processed foods consumed, another benefit for environmentalists trying to change their habits. 


Many people are intimidated by the prospect of changing their diet so drastically. But there are easy ways to make a change, even if going vegan overnight isn’t a possibility. Options for tentative environmentalists include cooking one more vegetarian meal each week or buying animal products from small-scale local farms. Getting appropriate nutrients with a vegetarian diet is easier than most people think. Good sources of protein include leafy greens, beans, nuts, chickpeas, and seeds. Vegetarian and vegan meals don’t have to be boring; there are many websites, blogs, and cookbooks that feature recipes free from meat or animal products. According to Vegetarian Times, approximately 3.2 percent of adults in the U.S. follow a vegetarian-based diet. Of the vegetarians surveyed, 47 percent cited environmental concerns as their primary motivation. About 10 percent of non-vegetarians surveyed say that they were interested in following a vegetarian diet in the future.

We can all take small steps towards eating more sustainably, regardless of our current diet patterns. Consuming fewer animal products is not just an environmental choice, but an ethical and healthy one.