What Can You Do to Counter Climate Disruption? Actually, a Lot!
Make the move to a plant-based diet, and you have made the most powerful decision available to you to counter climate change. You’ll immediately reduce your footprint on the land, because more space gets taken up by flesh, dairy and egg production than by direct gardening and crop cultivation.
Your footprint will not only get smaller, but it will stop carrying around a lot of other footprints with it! In North America -- the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has done the calculating for us -- we are outnumbered four-to-one by the animals we breed into existence to consume. Most of our farmland is devoted to feeding these animals, all so we can use their products and slaughter them and sell the bodies. It doesn’t have to be like this.
A lot less land is required to feed ourselves directly with plant-based proteins. It releases us and the animals from a harmful cycle of first growing crops, then feeding them to purpose-bred animals, then eating the animals.
As people opt out of animal agribusiness, we can free millions of acres of agricultural land to eventually be returned to its original forest or prairie state. The plants would be there to absorb carbon dioxide, and free-living animals would have their habitat. Sound idealist? That’s because we’re used to thinking in terms of making political changes only to the extent corporations want us to. But vegans can, and do, make the ideal real. We can live in a way that respects other animals, the earth, and each other. We just need to decide on the side of life!
By becoming vegan, you save a great deal of water and a great many trees -- about an acre of forest each year.
An acre of trees can remove about 13 tons of dust and gases every year from the surrounding environment! This is direct action at its best!
By becoming vegan, you also
- Reduce water pollution.
- Preserve natural grassland ecosystems, and the soil which would otherwise erode as a result of animal farming.
- Spare the rich rainforests of the world - and the animals who call them home.
- Reduce the amount of methane gas produced, thereby preventing further global warming.
- Avoid generating enormous quantities of animal manure, thereby lowering the dangerously high levels of ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorous that run off into the waters.
- Avoid generating the seepage of antibiotics and hormones into the waters.
- Preserve coral reefs.
Great Moves -- of the Local Kind
By choosing locally grown food you can reduce the energy and resources needed for transport and storage. Fresh food from across the continent is often shipped in refrigerated trucks, which burn a lot of carbon. Products from other continents are typically flown in, requiring a great deal of fuel. Looking for “locally grown” labels on your food means energy savings as well as support for your local economy.
Purchase food from your local farmers’ market, and you can ask the farmers directly about their growing practices and voice your concerns about animals and the environment. Do ask them for organic vegetables. When you buy organic foods you are avoiding genetically modified ingredients made in labs -- and who wants to be a test specimen? Plus, you’re supporting farmers who are using alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic farming methods also tend to be gentler on the soil and less likely to contaminate water, land and air.
You could also start your own backyard garden. If you don’t have space, don’t give up, because many cities have community gardens, and a lot of us are starting our own!
Get in contact today with some folks who are promoting plant-based farming and gardening throughout North America. Stephane Groleau and friends set up the Veganic Agriculture Network to promote vegan-organics to producers and consumers in North America. Check out their most informative site, and do consider supporting their efforts as well as Vegan Means.
Use It or Lose It
According to a study at the University of Arizona, more than 40% of food grown in the United States never gets eaten, resulting in a cost of at least $100 billion annually to the economy -- not to mention the environmental costs involved in the food production. The same study found that between 10 percent and 50 percent of the food in fast-food restaurants was thrown out. A North American family of four throws out $600 (USD) worth of good food every year.
Buying from small, local growers can ensure less waste at the farm level. Saving leftover food for tomorrow’s lunch can help at the home level. And make sensible habits your fashion. For example, use vegetable scraps to make a soup stock rather than discarding them.
Look for foods that require little or no packaging, such as whole fruits, vegetables, and bulk foods. Being vegan makes it easy to prepare healthy, whole-food meals. It may seem more convenient to buy a package of soy cheese or veggie burgers, but making great dishes from scratch and then freezing them for busy days is actually quick and easy. Try some of these delicious recipes to get you started. Remember to bring your own bags when you go shopping and recycle the packaging you do bring home.
Ride a Bike, Blade, Boogie …
Cycling, walking, roller-blading and skateboarding are all great exercise and good for our Earth too. Public transit and carpooling are a few more green alternatives to hopping in your car. Wherever many people use public transportation it becomes efficient and user-friendly, and this means more bike lanes, safer pedestrian areas, and more support for local gardens and parks.
Downhill skiing, dirt-biking, golfing and water-skiing take their toll on the environment through habitat destruction, fossil fuel emissions, land clearing or noise pollution. Spare an animal: Try activities that get you to the outdoors without destroying it, and that don’t require buying loads of special, factory-made gear. Canoeing, hiking, jogging, and gardening are great examples. And when you’re planning a garden of the decorative sort, don’t miss our ActionLine feature on making space for bees.
There are many more changes you can make as an individual to have a positive effect on the environment. For some more suggestions, go to:
This page was researched and presented by Lee Hall and Heather Steel, with website design by Rudy. Resources used in this page include the following:
A. Mendis, “Connections: Canadian Lifestyle Choices and the Environment” - State of the Environment Directorate, Fact Sheet No. 95-1. Ottawa: Environment Canada (1995).
Lance Gay, “Food Waste Costing Economy $100 Billion, Study Finds” - Scripps Howard News Service (2005).
P. Feral and L. Hall, Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine (quoting John Robbins) (2005).
Ferry County (Washington State) government website, “Ferry Conservation District 2008 Conservation Plant Sale” (brochure published 2008).