Every January, we hear tons of people resolve to be more sustainable, including a pledge to eat less meat. Especially after the holidays, it's easy to want to eat a bit lighter and resolve to drop the pounds that we all put on from the rich foods and cocktails. But for many years, going totally vegan felt like a huge stretch that wasn't even possible for me. It's fair to say that I have never gotten all the way through January with a totally vegan diet... so why do I keep trying?
Let's start with the impact of the meat and dairy sector. When we consider the carbon emissions from our food chain, meat comprises more than 60% of those emissions. When you think about farmland in the US, do you immediately think of the food that's farmed for human consumption? But what of the farmland that is primarily food for consumption by the animals that we'll eventually eat? Some estimates say that 41% of US land is used for livestock production... That's a lot of devoted resources! (The term "Production" - ew. These are sentient beings that are born and must be nurtured and fed, but that's another rant.) And do we grow livestock feed on the same land where we tend the livestock? Certainly we need to look at emissions from transporting food to our food... when is then transported to us.
All this is to say that the impact of raising meat is more than a few farts from a cow on its way to be our cheeseburger. Taking the simplistic view of "all cows fart" doesn't do justice to the cow, but it certainly is short-sighted in terms of our impact on our planet as well. So one way to cut back on our impact is to choose more plant-based options for our meals.
In recent years, "Plant-based" as a noun has become synonymous with "fake meat" or "substitute" or "cardboard, dressed up all fancy". But it doesn't have to be that way! Plants give us a plethora of food options, in all colors of the rainbow, each with their own magical properties that help keep our bodies healthy and functioning as they should. Sure, you'll need to learn some new techniques and maybe rethink how you plan a meal, but make it fun! For Christmas this year, I received a Vegan Boards cookbook, and each photo of the food options is stunning - both visually and in its simplicity. If you come to my house in 2023, you'll likely see some version of a vegan board...
But I keep ending up with dairy on my plate, so clearly I'm a bad vegan. Why keep trying? Well, simply put - we don't have to be perfect. Even cutting out one meat meal a week will make a difference, especially if millions of people do it. The individual responsibility that I feel is to control what I can in this mess of a world, but the individual choices that we all make add up quickly, whether that be for good or for bad. I'd rather eat meat 2x per month than 2x per day. Period. And I hope that others will choose similarly, though I don't presume to know what will work for every individual.
Then there is the health aspect. We know red meat isn't great for our health. We know veggies are. In 2019, my husband decided to choose a vegan diet for 30 days. By the end of the month, he was using significantly less of his asthma medication. In his words, "I like to breathe, so I'm going to keep doing this." Six months later, he went in for his annual physical and was surprised to learn that not only was his asthma more controlled, but his weight was down, and his cholesterol and blood pressure were down, too. Not to mention that without meat, our grocery budget was able to go down pretty significantly!
If you are thinking about making some more "plant-based" resolutions this year, or looking for ways to be healthier, or looking for ways to save money, trying a vegan diet is the way to go. Or if you can't go that far immediately, try vegetarian! While it is an adjustment, we carry some of the best cookbooks to help you find yummy, healthy recipes that are guaranteed to please.
Our store was built for a vegetarian diet (again, because I'm a bad vegan). That doesn't mean Veganuary isn't worth the hype... quite the contrary! It's an excellent inspiration for those of us who want to cut our impact, even if we aren't perfect. Come check out our package free options, and grab a cookbook to get inspired. You don't have to be perfect to do better!