In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on February 2020's topic: your diet. This article has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
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Making changes in your diet is one of the biggest ways you can create environmental impact. Here's the lowdown: 5 facts to think about this week, whether you're a full carnivore or a vegan. Click into each of the links to learn more.
One thing to remember: moving towards veganism is one way to make a huge environmental difference, but your journey doesn't have to be perfect. Individual behavior changes are one small part of the puzzle to solve climate change, and you can take baby steps instead of going cold tofurkey.
Today is our second module (LISTEN) on the impact of your diet on the environment.
I recently discovered an amazing podcast by The Atlantic called Crazy/Genius. It's under 30 minutes, extremely informative, and thought provoking - all the episodes future-oriented and ask big questions around science, technology, and culture.
This one asks, "Will We Ever Stop Eating Animal Meat?" I loved it because it doesn't just provide a moral case - the episode features revolutions in food that may, someday (soon?) lead to more sustainable food production. It's a 25 minute episode - check it out.
The episode covers the case for eating less meat, damage that meat production does, how we might incorporate crickets into some diets, and lab-grown meat. It's such a good episode - make sure to check it out on your commute!
I think the future looks like this.
Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. (They provide just 18% of calories but take up 83% of farmland. Greedy pigs.) So, how can we start small?
While you ponder your choices, here's an extensive data visualization of food's greenhouse gas emissions. Click the photo to navigate to the actual post so you can read it better.
Here are 5 vegetarian and vegan recipes that are delicious (verified by my carnivore friends).
These are in order of easy to hard, but even the hard one is not super difficult.
Many of you readers are already vegetarian or vegan, but it's not the end of the story for you. I noticed that even if people don't care about the environment or animal cruelty aspect of meat, they care about eating delicous food, saving money, or both.
I got my meat-eating roommate hooked on veggie meat because I'd make us scrambles with it all the time. Whenever my carnivorous friends and family ask me what to order at restaurants, I sneakily suggest the chicken option over beef/pork.
You have a lot of power outside your individual decisions - think about the next work happy hour you plan, the next family dinner night you're at, or the next opportunity to share some delicious food - you can make it sustainable.
And while you're at it, buy Trader Joe's veggie meatballs and some form of oat milk - they're the the easiest/best/yummiest all-encompassing substitute I can think of for meat and dairy.
First, here's the quiz on how your diet contributes to climate change. Share the results and tag us!
Q: "Is lab-grown meat really healthier for us than regular meat? Has lab-grown meat existed for long enough for us to have reliable data on its healthiness or lack thereof?"
A: Short answer: we're still figuring it out.
My take: lab-grown meat will be a "good" alternative to traditional meat... in moderation. Plant-based is still the way to go. (Thanks, Mark, for the question!)
Q: What other alternatives are there to being vegetarian or vegan? Is there a "good" way I can consume meat?
A: Pescatarian (fish only) or poultritarian (I don't know if it's a real word, but it includes poultry) are more environmentally sustainable alternatives. If you're feeling particularly loose, you could also be a flexitarian - someone who primarily eats vegetarian, but occasionally consumes meat and fish. That one's really honor-system based, but I trust you.
Q: What impact are people of color making?
A: I dug around on this question at the request of one of our readers (thanks, Agnes!), and honestly, the mainstream results were fairly lacking. Erasure of the vegan/vegetarian POC movement is real, and I'll be doing more research on how to make Changeletters include those perspectives. There isn't a lot of intersectional analysis that I saw right away, but one thing stood out - we associate "vegan" strongly with whiteness and wealth, especially in America.
White people will often co-opt recipes and dishes from communities of color - these are turned into trendy, high-price restaurants, cookbooks, video trends, and more - often with no credit given to their real history. This article got me thinking a lot about white veganism and how exclusive it is, although people of color have been making vegan food for centuries.
Your action: If you like Mexican food, visit veganmexicanfood.com. It's free!
It's launched by a Chicanx and vegan activist who wants to bring to light how much of Mexican food is actually not dependent on meat and dairy.