Is Veganism Truly Sustainable?

Go vegan, they said. Save the world, they said. But is the plant-based diet as good for the environment as we’ve been told? A group of researchers has recently published a study in which they describe various biophysical simulation models that compare 10 eating patterns: the vegan diet, two vegetarian diets (one that includes dairy, the other dairy and eggs), four omnivorous diets (with varying degrees of vegetarian influence), one low in fats and sugars, and one similar to modern American dietary patterns.

What they found was that the carrying capacity—the size of the population that can be supported indefinitely by the resources of an ecosystem—of the vegan diet is actually less substantial than two of the vegetarian diets and two out of the four omnivorous diets they studied.

The Price of Veganism

The number of vegans has increased 160 per cent over the past 10 years, but people need to be asking “where has this food come from” as they fill their shopping baskets with the fruits of the world: pomegranates and mangos from India, lentils from Canada, beans from Brazil, blueberries from the US and goji berries from China. Eating lamb chops that come from a farm a few miles down the road is much better for the environment than eating an avocado that has travelled from the other side of the world.

As we greedily plunder the world’s bread basket, it’s the consumer who benefits, while those at the source can be left high and dry. Take avocados and quinoa, whose prices have been pushed up so much by Western demand that they’ve become unaffordable to those who depend on them in their country of origin.

Rather than being seduced by exhortations to eat more products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains, we should be encouraging sustainable forms of meat and dairy production based on traditional rotational systems, permanent pasture and conservation grazing. We should, at the very least, question the ethics of driving up demand for crops that require high inputs of fertilizer, fungicides, pesticides and herbicides, while demonizing sustainable forms of livestock farming that can restore soils and biodiversity, and sequester carbon.

Not only does this system of natural grazing aid the environment in terms of soil restoration, biodiversity, pollinating insects, water quality and flood mitigation – but it also guarantees healthy lives for the animals, and they in turn produce meat that is healthy for us. In direct contrast to grain-fed and grain-finished meat from intensive systems, wholly pasture-fed meat is high in beta carotene, calcium, selenium, magnesium and potassium and vitamins E and B, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – a powerful anti-carcinogen. It is also high in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is vital for human brain development but extremely difficult for vegans to obtain.

Much has been made of the methane emissions of livestock, but these are lower in biodiverse pasture systems that include wild plants such as angelica, common fumitory, shepherd’s purse and bird’s-foot trefoil because they contain fumaric acid – a compound that reduces emissions of methane by 70%, according to reliable studies.

In the vegan equation, by contrast, the carbon cost of ploughing is rarely considered. Since the industrial revolution, up to 70% of the carbon in our cultivated soils has been lost to the atmosphere. So there’s a huge responsibility here: unless you’re sourcing your vegan products specifically from organic, “no-dig” systems, you are actively participating in the destruction of soil biota, promoting a system that deprives other species, including small mammals, birds and reptiles, of the conditions for life, and significantly contributing to climate change.

There’s no question we should all be eating far less meat, and calls for an end to high-carbon, polluting, unethical, intensive forms of grain-fed meat production are commendable. But if your concerns as a vegan are the environment, animal welfare and your own health, then it’s no longer possible to pretend that these are all met simply by giving up meat and dairy. Counterintuitive as it may seem, adding the occasional organic, pasture-fed steak to your diet could be the right way to square the circle.

6 Habits to Adopt for a More Sustainable Life

Our daily life choices affect the environment, the climate, and other species. From what we choose to consume to our family size, we can do a lot to « choose nature » and help decrease our footprint’s negative impacts and leave room for a more sustainable life.

1) Think Twice Before You Shop

« Reduce, reuse, recycle » may sound archaic, but it’s just as relevant today as it was when the term was coined. Each product we purchase has an enviromental footprint, from the materials we use to make it to the pollution released when the packaging goes to landfill. So before you buy, ask yourself if the product is necessary. If it is, consider buying a used product rather than a new one, and aim for minimal packaging and transportation.

2) Go Plastic Free

Billions of pounds of plastics are now found in the swirling convergences that make up about 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces. Annually, thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, seals, and other marine mammals are killed after being entangled in plastic. You can begin reducing your plastic waste by following these simple steps: use reusable bags when shopping, avoid single-use water bottles, bags, and straws, and avoid products made or packaged in plastic as much as possible (for example, choose unpackaged products at the grocery store, shop locally, reduce online shopping).

3) Grow Your Own Products

By growing your own fruits and vegetables, you can ensure that no pesticides or other harmful substances that contribute to water and air pollution are utilized. This will also cut down on the quantity of fossil fuels used to move products to supermarkets.

4) Don’t Waste Water

Avoid drinking bottled water. Bottled water companies try to sell tap water, even if it usually be free. Many city water products have won quality and taste tests compared to branded water. The extraction of water and the manufacturing of all these plastic bottles is a known detriment to communities and wildlife. Conserving water is also vital, primarily because our growing population is placing an increasing demands on the country’s water sources, and we are experiencing more droughts than ever before. You can save water by taking shorter showers, repairing leaky toilets, and choosing low-flow, water-efficient appliances. You can also consider xeriscaping your yard, a landscaping technique that uses native plants adapted to drought conditions, require less water and maintenance over time, and provide habitat and food for birds and bees.

5) Choose to Have a Small Family

Now is the time to talk about the rapid increase in the human population, the species extinction crisis, and the type of future we need for wildlife, the planet, and ourselves. With more than 7.5 billion people globally, and more every day, our need for food, water, land, and fossil fuels drives other species to extinction. Thus, having fewer children would be a wise choice. We can achieve an environmentally sustainable population in a way that promotes human rights; reduce poverty and overpopulation; raise our standard of living; and allow plants, animals, and the protected to thrive.

6) Drive Less

By altering your driving habits, you have the power to lower your carbon footprint. Walk, bike, carpool or use public transit whenever possible. Combine classes to make fewer trips. Participate in car-free days or organize car-free days in your neighbourhood. Keeping your car in good condition through regular tune-ups and tire inflation is also crucial. Regular tune-ups can improve your fuel efficiency by 4-40%, and if people keep their tires inflated, fuel consumption can be reduced by 2% across a country.

By following these simple habits, you can make a big difference!

Tips in Green Living

Moving towards an environmentally friendly lifestyle can help improve your health and your life in general, and it is also a major asset for the world around you. Eliminating unnecessary chemicals, unhealthy foods, earth-unfriendly practices and bad habits can add up to make you healthier, while at the same time boosting the environment and the ecosystem. Wherever you are in the world, the following 8 tips are all achievable. Some of them are even great fun! Treat yourself, as we all fight for a greener future.

1. Get a high efficiency shower-head A high efficiency shower-head can save up to 3,000 gallons of water per person per year. You will also save $50 in energy costs and 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per person per year. Shower-heads are specially designed to conserve resources while providing a luxurious shower. Accessories for sinks and aerators also save large amounts of water and are very inexpensive.

2. Recycle water in your bathroom Use devices that allow you to reuse water from the sink to flush your toilet. You can also keep a bucket near the shower or bathtub and fill it with cold water from the sink before the hot water kicks in. Then take the bucket outside and use it to water your plants.

3. Compost Use a compost bin to turn your food and lawn waste into a rich mulch. It’s a great way to reduce your waste production, and next year you’ll have a rich compost ready to be planted in the spring.

4. Buy green power from your utility Most utilities charge less than $5 per month extra. Not only will your energy come from a renewable source, but you will use your spending control to show utility executives and government officials that we need more investment in renewable energy projects.

5. Improving the efficiency of your tankless and solar water heaters is all well and good, but simple modifications to your existing installation can reduce your energy bills and carbon emissions by 25% or more. Reduce the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees, wrap it in an insulating water heater blanket and insulate the first 3 to 6 feet of hot and cold water piping. These inexpensive changes should take less than an hour.

6. Use high-efficiency outdoor lighting A typical 100-watt spotlight, if used six hours a day, can use up to $40 worth of electricity over a year and produce more than 400 pounds of carbon dioxide, depending on where you live. To get started, replace these projectors with compact fluorescent versions, which are just as bright and consume a quarter of the energy. Next, replace the low-energy halogen landscape bulbs with LED versions. They reduce energy consumption by more than 80% and can last for ten years or more. Finally, install motion detectors on non-essential lights. The new versions screw directly into the socket of your existing luminary.

7. 7. Replace heavy-duty indoor lights with compact fluorescent or LEDs With high-quality light, sizes to fit almost any luminary and dimmable versions, compact fluorescent have it all. They are more expensive than standard light bulbs, but between the energy savings and their much longer service life, they pay for themselves in less than two years. And think about LED bulbs for non-dimmable circuits (especially for vacation lighting). They are real energy wasters and will last as long as you live in your home.

8. Load the washing machines Make sure to run the dishwasher and washing machines only when they are full. Clothes washers consume a lot of energy and water, so be sure to do full loads (or adjust the water setting) whenever possible. And most of us use much more water (and soap) than we need to wash dishes by hand, especially when compared to high-efficiency Energy Star dishwashers. So save your time, water and energy by putting these dishes directly in the dishwasher after a meal.