By Grace Hahn
In just a couple of weeks I’ll have been a vegan for a year. No meat, no cheese, and no milk for an entire year—to some this is a piece of cake (Vegan cake? Potentially. It does exist.) and to others it’s very much the end of the world.*
This is probably the most relevant observation I’ve made since becoming a vegan: Each individual person has such a different relationship with food that the same simple food group could mean absolutely nothing or absolutely everything to different people. And I respect that. Not everyone can completely cut cheese out of her life. Being conscious of what I eat and enjoying what I eat is incredibly important to me as well.
That’s why I look at food as a lifestyle, like an ongoing choice that gives me the clout to dictate what role I’ll be playing in maintaining the cycle of the ecosystem around me. That’s why I recycle, thrift, compost, and that’s why I’m a vegan.**
It’s easy to separate ourselves from where our food comes from, but here’s a little insight into the seemingly distant parts of the Earth’s ecosystem that are impacted by everyday consumption of meat and dairy. First of all, the industrialization of land animal farming in the U.S. (grazing cows, pigs, harvesting feed, etc.) is a leading cause for over-irrigation and C02 emissions. In addition, mass fishing causes the destruction of miles of underwater coral habitats daily, dragging acre-long nets along the ocean floor and uprooting the ecosystems of thousands of underwater species. Finally, in a 2006 study, the UN Food & Agriculture Association released a study naming inefficient livestock production the source for 65 percent of humans’ N2O generation, contributing to global warming at an even stronger rate than CO2.
Bottom line, we have the right to question and even limit participation in these detrimental practices. Though some may say it’s beyond the individual’s control, I say it’s just the opposite. It’s up to each one of us to decide what role we will play.
I’m not going to lie: I’m proud that I’m more dedicated to eating healthier and more naturally than I was a year ago. Taking an active role in my personal wellbeing and contributing to a more environmentally friendly future, enhanced even more by the contributions I make every day, makes me happy.
All in all, to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike, being conscious of what you eat can make a difference. And if your diet benefits you and makes you stronger, maybe it can make the environment a bit stronger too.
*Calm down, it’s not the end of the world.
** And now for an obligatory disclaimer for all of those who don’t exactly know what makes a vegan: there are infinite shades of grey here. My reasoning for choosing to be a vegan is primarily environmental. Some are activists for animal rights, some just want to be healthier! Many different reasons, many different philosophies. All personal choices to adapt to a more conscious diet.