Guest Expert Training #1:
My health, My impact
By Kristen Plemons
“Vegan” can be a very scary weird word with lots of charged feelings around it. Words like “Tree hugger”, “Hippie” or “PETA” come up a lot. There are many reasons someone would label him/ herself a vegan. I know all of you totally know what a vegan is, but just so you can explain it to your less informed friends later I will elaborate. A “vegan” subscribes to the belief that animal cruelty is wrong and that we as humans don’t have the right to choose when/ how animals die. This belief is played out in diet and consumer choices. A vegan doesn’t eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey. They also don’t buy products made of animal by products or products tested on animals. PHEW! That’s a lot.
So, with that out of the way, I should tell you, I’m not a vegan. Gasp! What I AM is an environmentalist and I do believe a lot of what I just talked about. However, I simply adhere to a “whole foods, plant based diet” which is only a tiny bit different. I don’t eat meat, dairy, as little processed foods as possible and usually not eggs. I have a lot of people in my life who raise happy chickens in their yards and supply me with free eggs. I also get home raise honey that comes from many of these same friends.
Now why exactly would I go through all this trouble to be the weirdo on Thanksgiving who has to answer the question “So you’re not having any turkey? You know how hard your mother worked on that!”. Sigh.
My first WHY is my health. Just like you dear reader, I take my personal health very seriously. After lots of research paired with even more trial and error, I am learning that many of the foods we have been raised as American consumers to enjoy and even believe in as health foods are causing serious consequences in our health. From the saturated fat in meat and dairy, the cholesterol in eggs, to the pesticides on everything in between, there is a lot to be picky about. Animal products cause inflammation in the body. Removing them can improve joint mobility and health, improve your ability to recover from injury and illness, and even bounce back faster after a hard workout. Not eating animals lowers my risk for cancer, (type 2) diabetes, heart disease and my overall exposure to toxins in the environment.
My second WHY is your health. How might what I eat have any effect on you? We don’t even know each other and may never cross paths in the real world. We are all consumers. Our choices about how we spend our money on food and goods impact each other. Industrial animal agriculture is the #1 largest impact on environmental health. It causes 18% of overall greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than ALL transportation combined (planes, buses, cars, trains boats etc). Growing feed crops (corn to feed cows, not people) consumes 56% of water in the US. Livestock covers 45% of the earth’s total land. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of global deforestation. The waste (poo poo) runoff from hog farms in Texas is causing dead zones (areas where nothing can live) in the ocean because the water is now poisonous. Those same farms are causing asthma in the residents who live near the because the waste is circulated back out into the fields as fertilizer (think poo poo sprinkler system)
That last chunk can read as a real bummer! And those things are upsetting. But remember what we talked about earlier? What we eat changes the world!
Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.