According to Project Drawdown, one of the most useful things we can do to slow down and even start to reverse climate change is to adopt a vegan diet. It’s such an easy change to make and can start with our next meal.
Not only will we cut back on methane emissions from cows, who, if they were their own nation, would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, but we’ll also be able to slow down and even stop deforestation. It’s happening at an alarming pace as more and more land gets turned over to pasturing beef and growing animal feed. As an even better bonus, if enough of us move to a plant-based diet, existing pastureland that won’t be used for animal feed can be reforested, helping to draw down CO2 that’s already in the air. How cool is that?
And that’s just the environment.
More people eating a more plant-based diet will, on paper at least, allow for more food to go to hungry people. Instead of to beef cattle for the most inefficient way to make protein that we’ve come up with yet.
And yes, I realize that hunger has as much to do with political will as it does with food availability. But our eating too much meat really does keep food out of reach of the hungry masses.
On paper, widespread adoption of a vegan diet has so many wins I’ve almost lost count. But still, people resist taking it up. They’re afraid they’ll miss eating meat. Or they worry that they’ll do the vegan diet wrong and make themselves sick. Even though they don’t spend any time thinking of nutrition with their current eating pattern. And the only nutrient you can’t get enough of on a fully vegan diet is vitamin B12. A decent supplement will take care of that.
Of course, as with any theory about climate change, there are conflicting opinions. Some people don’t believe that a vegan diet is that effective. So some people might not take it up because they’re afraid of being wrong or appearing naïve and earnest. What will their friends think? It’s too scary to think about. So we just keep driving off that cliff.
The same thing happens when people write and talk about a minimalist lifestyle. I mean the one where you just stop buying things you don’t need, not the one where you start with a massive clear out of the things you already have.
We’re afraid we won’t be able to handle it if we’re faced with a situation, and we don’t have the right stuff. We don’t trust our ingenuity. We don’t trust that anyone can help us.
At its core, almost all resistance is fear. And the way to get past our fears is to take one step.
Commit to Meatless Mondays for a couple of weeks. Then find some vegan cooking blogs or borrow some vegan cookbooks from the library. Make some meals that are close to what you usually eat. See how good they are. Do you feel any different after eating a vegan meal? Lighter maybe? Did you even notice that it didn’t have any meat? Don’t shop for a bunch of new and unfamiliar ingredients. Just work with what you normally have, minus the animal products. It’s way less intimidating that way.
After a couple of Meatless Mondays, you can build up to Meatless Monday to Friday. You don’t need to commit to a fully vegan diet to still make a difference. And having the option to eat meat occasionally should take a lot of the fear out of trying a new lifestyle.
It’s the same with approaching minimalism as a way to lighten your carbon footprint. Don’t start with the big clear out. That doesn’t do anything for the environment, and likely won’t lead to lasting change.
Start with a buying freeze. This week, don’t buy anything. Just get through the week however you can without buying anything extra and notice how it feels. Was it hard to do? Did you feel unprepared? Did you come up with any creative solutions? Use up some of the backlog in your fridge and pantry? Were you bored not being able to shop?
Once the week is over, you can regroup. Extend the buying freeze if you can. Make exceptions for necessities and notice what you consider necessary. Is it really? Are you sure?
Again, it’s not all or nothing. Just give it a go and notice what comes up for you.
Alan and I have been simplifying our lives for a long time. I find that these kinds of changes are more frightening in prospect than they are to actually live through.
Once you’ve made the change and nothing terrible happens, you wonder, what was I so afraid of? It was way easier than I thought it would be, and none of my friends have even noticed.
And then you start to wonder, what else is fear keeping me from doing? And that’s when life gets really good – for you and for the planet.
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