Upon hearing the word ‘vegan’, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s tree-hugging hippies with grass in their hair who never bathe. Maybe it’s PETA protesters holding signs and screaming about animal cruelty with faces as red as the tomatoes they munch on. If either of these images popped into your head, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. Not eating meat seems almost like a foreign concept to a majority of Americans, not to mention Kansas Citians, who reside in the barbecue capital of the world. And giving up eggs and dairy almost seems unfathomable.
Yes, my carnivorous friends, I was just like you once. I mean really, who would give up a Double Winstead with cheese and a vanilla Skyscraper willingly?
Apparently, I would.
Yes, I am a self-proclaimed partial-vegan, which means different things for different people. A full-on vegan doesn’t eat or wear anything that came from or was made by harming an animal. Personally, though, as a partial-vegan I don’t eat meat or dairy, I’ll wear leather if it’s a gift, and I’m getting better about checking labels to see if products were tested on animals.
It all started with Netflix, where I stumbled upon TED Talks and decided to watch the nutrition series.
Each of the videos talked about something different, whether it be how to make the perfect hamburger down to a science, that some kids in England can’t identify a potato from a tomato, or the environment.
It turns out that those cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets we crave have a bigger impact on the environment than we may know.
According to the U.N., meat and dairy products require more resources and cause higher emissions of greenhouse gases than their plant-based alternatives. Also, more than half of the world’s crops are grown to feed animals. This means that we are using substantially larger amounts of water, energy and land to feed livestock than we would trying to grow crops. The world we live in does not have enough land or water to sustain this style of life. Not to mention that with all the methane (20 times more potent than CO2) produced by livestock, which accounts for 37 percent of greenhouse gases, our ozone layer is diminishing day by day.
The reason these numbers are so big is because there is such a huge demand for animal-based products in today’s society.
“Well that’s easy,” I thought to myself, “Decrease demand, decrease the numbers.”
So I decided to take on being a vegetarian and slowly work my way towards a vegan diet. I started giving up only meat; not even fish were an exception.
Then went dairy. No more chocolate milk, mozzarella or greek yogurt. Really, not as tough as you’d think. There are a variety of great dairy alternatives out there like almond milk and soy cheese (I know it sounds gross, but it tastes just like the real thing).
Then came eggs, which to be honest, were never really a big part of my diet in the first place.
Alone, these foods were easy to give up. I never had any sudden desires to slurp down a glass of ice cold milk or munch on a turkey sandwich, and I still don’t. Mix a couple of these key ingredients together though, and that’s where you have my downfall.
Cookies and cupcakes are loaded with eggs, butter and milk, and if you know me at all, you know I love to not just bake, but eat my creations as well. How could I possibly give that up?
And then I realized that I don’t have to. Adopting a vegan lifestyle is about decreasing pain, whether it be for the animals that are being slaughtered to feed us, or those who don’t have enough to eat because more grain and crops are going to the animals instead of them. Depriving myself of eating something I love doesn’t sound like decreasing pain, even if my “pain” is on a much smaller scale.
So I’ve learned that it’s perfectly fine to make some exceptions. I still drink whey protein shakes after cross country practice and I’ll still grab an ice cream cone if a friend invites me out. I try not to eat baked goods as much as possible, but if I’m dying for a sugar cookie, I’ll indulge.
Personally, giving all these foods up isn’t too hard though. For someone who already loves leafy greens, it wasn’t hard to transition to a diet mostly made of fruits and vegetables. Of course there is my parents concern that I’m not meeting all my daily dietary needs. But you don’t have to eat a 10 oz. steak every day to get your daily recommended amount of protein. Quinoa, tofu, and nuts are also great sources, and they’re 100 percent vegan.
Obviously this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, I mean, not everyone looks at kale with wide eyes and a drooling mouth like I do. And, while I encourage everyone to try an animal product free diet, I know that’s unrealistic. We’re just accustomed to getting hot dogs at baseball games and having a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of our apple pie. It’s the American way. So if chowing down on a rack of ribs from Oklahoma Joe’s makes you happy, then by all means, dig in.
But if you’re up for a challenge, and want to help the planet stick around for a little longer, there are a number of ways you and your diet can help. Even going vegetarian for one day of the week helps tremendously. According to Living Green Magazine, if every American dropped one serving of chicken per week from their diet, it would save the same amount of CO2 emissions as taking 500,000 cars off the road.
Being a partial-vegan is a personal choice and I won’t try to shove my beliefs down your throat if you don’t write me off as a tree-hugging, animal-loving lunatic. I just want this world to last a little longer and I’m willing to change my diet to do so.