Diet Change for Climate Change?

by - January 04, 2020

Veganism. The marmite of dieting. Some people have a very negative perception of veganism in principles and practise. Some think veganism is the greatest thing since sliced bread. 

Although perhaps seen by some purely as a millennial fad diet, the vegan movement is growing in popularity; not because people think its cool and edgy to eat avo bagels everyday, but because scientists have called for diet change to tackle climate change. 

The IPCC special report 15 (click here for summary) stated that people should cut back on meat and dairy consumption in an effort to combat global warming. These industries are highly polluting and contribute significantly to global GHG emissions. 

The fact is, the science is there that shows that a plant based diet is an effective way for individuals to minimise their carbon footprint. In fact, a plant-based diet can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as half compared to a meat-heavy diet. Red meat in particular is responsible for the most GHG emissions. 

I have been vegan for a little over a year, after being flexitarian and then veggie for a few years. But I am in no way the perfect vegan. I eat cheese at Christmas, and have the occasional dairy milk (maybe more than occasional...). There is a stigma of perfectionism surrounding veganism. It does come in-part from other vegans. Some vegans would never ever "cheat" or divert from being 100% plant-based, and so sometimes they come down hard on vegans who sometimes digress. However, in my experience non-vegans are more judgemental. On the whole, people are lovely and don't care, but there is definitely pressure once you declare yourself as vegan to never even look at a steak or egg again. 

This is utter nonsense and does far more damage than good.

Every little helps. Something is better than nothing. Do your bit.

These statements are so commonly thrown around when discussing sustainable living and they are so important. No one is perfect and so you should never try to be. The same goes for lifestyle: you can't always be a perfect vegan or live a completely zero waste life and that's fine. Meat-free-Mondays is better than eating meat 7 days a week. Vegetarian Mon-fri and then dining out for steak at the weekend is better than eating meat 7 days a week. The occasional slice of brie or piece of chocolate (entire bar) is a massive improvement on my previous diet. The only issue I have with slogans such as "every little helps" is that people become complacent. "I could be worse so therefore I am fine" is the capitalist mantra to making people feel better. But, something is better than nothing. 

Turning vegan overnight is unrealistic. It's possible, and I applaud anyone who has done this. For me, it was a slow process over years. I initially stopped eating meat in my 2 year of university. I only ate meat if other people were cooking for me or if I went out for meals. I therefore was not buying any meat from the supermarket. My rationale was, I don't want to be rude if someone is making me a free meal, and I don't want to pay for something in a restaurant if it's not what I really want. I eventually turned completely vegetarian. This was made miles easier by the fact my friends are left-leaning environmentalists who are either veggie themselves, or would happily eat a veggie meal (and that I was a poor student who cooked 99% of my meals myself and rarely ate out). I turned vegan after reading the IPCC SR15 and have lived in Cape Town for most of that time, a very vegan-friendly city with lots of vegan restaurants. 

I recommend taking it slow. Learn some recipes, talk to other vegans (feel free comment here and talk to me), phase meat out. Try meat alternatives and see which you like (the beyond-burger is beyond-amazing). Look at your go-to meals and see how to make them veggie/vegan. Get some staples in: oat milk, nutritional yeast, beans, coconut milk, peanut butter, fruit, nuts, seeds, avocado, oreos. 

I think I can say with some confidence that is has never been easier to be a vegan. Veganuary is a craze that took the world by storm last year with immense success. Try it for one month and see how you feel. It might not work for you. If you have a nut or soy allergy for example, it will be incredibly difficult and may have adverse health impacts. Some people who suffer from IBS struggle, but some people experience massive improvements. Try it, and see. You might not stay vegan forever, but you might learn some amazing new restaurant or recipes to come back to in the future, thus reducing your meat/dairy consumption. If you plan to do veganuary, I strongly recommend signing up to: this mailing list. They send you tips and recipes EVERY DAY in January and it makes things so much easier, especially if you are completely new to this. Let me know if you try veganuary out and how it goes for you!!

I am NOT trying to induct you into a weird vegan cult. I am not even telling you to be a vegan or vegetarian.  I am expressing my opinion and I am presenting you with science. 

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