Day 17

Plant Based


“By eating meat, we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddhist Monk and founder of the Plum Village tradition


Our values are served on our plates every time we eat. The foods we choose and those we avoid express what’s important to us. So how might we eat in a way that respects the planet? A plant-based or vegan diet is a way to live in harmony with people, all species, and our Earth. It is a celebration of the abundance of plants rich in nutrients, variety, flavor and life!


Meat-free diets are not new; they have been central to many traditions over thousands of years! Buddhists, Hindus, Rastafarians and Quakers have advocated vegetarianism as an extension of practicing non-violence. Veganism can be traced back to deep roots in Africa, as well as a myriad of cultures and Indigenous peoples that revere animals and sustainably align diets with the environment.


Conventional animal agriculture is one of the main contributors to environmental degradation, accelerated climate change, and negative impact on natural resources. This occurs in various ways:


Greenhouse gas emissions. A study attributes animal agriculture as responsible for 57% of greenhouse gas emissions. Global food production accounts for more than one-third, with meat and dairy responsible for twice as much planet-heating carbon pollution as plant-based foods.


Biodiversity Loss. We are perilously trading rich biodiversity for agricultural land to grow feed crops and provide grazing for animals. Animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 33% of biodiversity loss and 75% of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.


Ocean destruction. Through pesticide, fertilizer and waste runoff, livestock has indirectly caused hundreds of dead zones covering thousands of miles of ocean. One dead zone in the gulf of Mexico averages 4,280 square miles, which is not even the largest globally. Exploitative practices by the seafood industry have caused dangerous overfishing in 34.2% of fisheries, a growing number.


Inefficient Land Use. Animal agriculture perpetuates the global hunger crisis due to highly inefficient use of resources and produces far less food than plant-based agriculture. One pound of beef requires 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water and 7 pounds of feed, whereas a comparable amount of wheat takes only 25 gallons of water to produce. 


Pollution. As animal agriculture has been industrialized on a large scale, factory farms have fundamentally altered the way that animals are raised and turned into food. Livestock food is high in synthetic pesticides and chemicals, so manure cannot be returned to nature as fertilizer. As a result, animals within each Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) generate tons of toxic manure that leach heavy metals and nitrates into soil and groundwater. This is called nonpoint source pollution, where pollution from many sources cannot be easily traced, making it more difficult to combat. Nutrient pollution from manure can cause algae blooms in water, as well as health issues in humans and all living things.  


Disease. Factory farms use large amounts of growth hormones. The combination of rapid growth, unsanitary living conditions, and overcrowding results in high rates of disease, which has led to rampant use of antibiotics in animal feed. This sharply increases antibiotic-resistant bacteria, causing illness and over 35,000 deaths per year. 


But there is good news! The numerous benefits of plant-based diets are becoming more widely known, gaining both favor and accessibility! Scientific research around the world has shown that a plant-based diet can reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, various types of cancer, and other major illnesses. Many people also report bigger fitness payoffs, more energy, reduced inflammation, clearer skin, and wide-ranging health improvements after making the switch. And this is all in addition to plant-based diets  reducing human impacts on the environment in invaluable ways!


Changing your diet to include more plant-based foods does not need to happen all at once. A simple way to begin the transition is through Meatless Monday. Eating plant-based just one day a week can save 1,150 gallons of water, 32 square feet of forest and 21 pounds of carbon dioxide! From there, you can think about ways to include plant-based foods for additional meals, more days or even all the time. There are many ways to explore a plant-based diet, so find one that works for your body and your lifestyle! From eating vegan meals once, seven or twenty-one times a week; to changing the ratio of animal products to fruits/veggies/grains/nuts on your plate; to cutting out certain meats, poultry, eggs and dairy from your diet entirely – every approach makes a difference.


Unfortunately, not everyone is able to make these food choices. Food systems have been intentionally designed to keep balanced, fresh, plant-based diets out of reach for large segments of the population. Food apartheid refers to the systemic division between those with and without access to healthy foods, the latter of which are predominantly BIPOC, marginalized and low-income communities. Food in these areas is often limited to convenience stores and small retail shops that offer only a small selection of overly-processed, packaged and often unhealthy foods. Around the world, this system directly leads to negative health consequences in such communities, while granting wealthy, predominantly-white neighborhoods reliable access to fresh, organic, nutritious, plant-rich foods. 


We need people like you to acknowledge, advocate against, and discuss environmental racism and food injustice. Queer Brown Vegan not only uses their platform to promote health and sustainability, but they also speak candidly about how those lifestyles are not realistically attainable for everyone. Through open discussion, we create space for accountability and solutions! Together, we can call for sustainable and healthy food for all people in all places in a way that values fellow humanity and the planet we share! 


So who is part of the plant-based movement? You might associate vegan diets with a certain type of person, but they are fundamentally intersectional. Leaders, bloggers and influencers from all walks of life, ethnicities, races and backgrounds are proudly outspoken about their plant-based food choices for countless reasons. Black activists like Tabitha Brown, Aph Ko of Black Vegans Rock, Syl Ko, and many more are doing incredible work. Veggie Mijas is a national collective of nonbinary folks and femmes of color that strives to connect and spotlight plant-based people of color. Look around your community for diverse inspiration or check out Instagram accounts like byanygreens, davinadavegan, vegicano, theminimalistvegan, veganricha, eatthisorg and others to see the breadth of vegan foodies, plant-based enthusiasts, and food and animal rights activists around the globe.


Check out these vegan recipes from our partners at Meatless Monday Campaigns and taco and burrito recipes from RW Garcia. RW Garcia offers a delicious array of plant-based, non-GMO, gluten-free snacks to power us through our days, during PGC and beyond! Our Conscious Kitchen Cookbook also has a wealth of plant-based recipes designed for students and school budgets.