Local View: Eating plants for the planet affordable, effective, fun -- and essential
Did you know you can dramatically shrink your carbon footprint, reduce water pollution, help save the rainforests, reduce animal suffering, and improve your health all in one fell swoop? What's more, it's inexpensive and requires no great time commitment, so anyone can do it. Wow, what a deal!
Eating mostly plants is the single activity that provides all these benefits. That's it. Just eat more fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and grains. Replace most (or all) of your meat and dairy with plant-based alternatives and choose local or organic products for meat, dairy, and eggs if you use them.
The United Nations repeatedly has called for a global shift toward plant-based diets in response to environmental degradation and climate change. According to Project Drawdown, "Standard carbon emissions could be reduced by as much as 63 percent by adopting a vegetarian diet. Plus $1 trillion in annual health care costs and lost productivity would be saved due to added health benefits of eating more plant-based foods."
In addition, major scientific studies published in The Lancet and Nature in 2018 called for "a great food transformation." They concluded that adopting a mostly plant-based diet is vital to mitigate climate change and save the environment.
Taking this simple but effective step makes so much sense that it isn't surprising that more and more people are choosing to eat more plants. In 2018, vegan food sales in the U.S. grew 10 times more than standard food sales, according to a report by the Plant Based Food Association.
Help your favorite restaurants, delis, and grocery stores get on board by asking them to offer a really good selection of plant-based products and menu choices; then be sure to thank them, patronize them, and tell others about them.
Are you doubtful that giving up your burgers and bacon will be fun? It can be. Choosing to eat in a planet-friendly way is a delicious and creative endeavor, and there is an exuberant sense of community and dedication as we make meaningful change together on a daily basis.
Can a society change the way it eats? Yes. In Britain, one in eight people are now vegetarian or vegan, and vegan chefs are in great demand.
I've noticed climate-concerned folks are sometimes reluctant to talk about the role of diet and the food industry in caring for the earth. Maybe they don't want to risk offending others by asking them to change their habits. But the effect on the whole must be taken into account. As teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg says, "This is not the time to speak politely. This is the time to speak plainly."
The effects of factory farming are being felt by every person on the planet. Our dietary choices are affecting the whole world. How we eat is no longer simply a personal matter.
Health, climate, and the environment are complex issues; they include big factors that are beyond our individual control. That's all the more reason for us to take steps that are within our power. Dietary change is something every person can do to make a difference — and the more of us who do it the more difference it can make.
Songwriter Pete Seeger once said, "I think the world is going to be saved by millions of small things." That's us. Let's do it.
Bonnie Ambrosi of Duluth is a wellness instructor, animal-welfare advocate, and cook at the Denfeld Whole Foods Co-op who writes a recipe column in the News Tribune.