Many Canadians celebrate Earth Week by joining an outdoor garbage cleanup, or by planting trees, but did you know that limiting the amount of meat you eat could also help the environment.
Eating vegan is a lifestyle change that promotes a plant-based diet, which in-turn has several environmental benefits.
Eileen Fauster, Holistic Healer and Acupuncturist in Toronto has been leading a vegan lifestyle for over 15 years.
Fauster is the founder of Essential Balance Holistic Health Services. She says she works with people who want a healthier lifestyle, to save the planet’s resources, discourage the cattle and chicken industries and proudly limit animal products for ethical reasons.
“From a nutritional standpoint, optimum health revolves around an intake of nutrients that the body can actually use and gain access to,” Fauster told Humber News.
“The best foods are plant-based foods like nuts and seeds, lentils, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lot’s and lot’s of water. Combine that with a good sleep, positive attitude and daily movement- those are the basics for a healthy life.”
According to a 2014 study by Friends of the Earth, humans waste over 630,000 tons of meat per year.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture are higher than the transportation industry combined. Rain forests and green areas are also being destroyed at an alarming rate to make room for cattle” – Rob Cooley, Vegetarian
Ari Soloman, Director of Communications at Mercy For Animals, a national non-profit farmed animal protection organization, has followed a vegan diet for 10 years.
“I discovered how animals are treated on factory farms before they have reached our plate and it really horrified me to know some of the extreme abuses that are really considered standard in the factory farming industry,” Soloman says.
Soloman began with Mercy For Animals by volunteering and supporting the organization, before he finally became a part of the staff team.
Reconsidering your diet can have a great impact on the environment. According to Statistics Canada, the amount of beef and veal being eaten has dropped 2.3 per cent from 2008, while pork has declined by 1.3 per cent.
“The resources that go into a cattle or chicken farm are huge in terms of how many pounds of grain have to be planted and harvested in order to feed the cattle,” said Fauster.
She also says that if even 10 per cent of the population became vegan, it would save our global resources dramatically.
According to Cowspiracy, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than transportations exhaust of 13 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.
“A vegan diet definitely is better in terms of lowering your carbon footprint. It’s much less energy intensive and you don’t contribute to some of the climate change gases that are really intensive in animal farming,” said Soloman.
“The methane gas from cattle hits the ozone layer. Whenever they defecate and gas is released, it hits our environment. Cattle is a huge industry and it has a huge impact,” said Fauster.
Cows release 150 gallons of methane per day, which has a large effect on climate change.
Soloman says the methane gas that comes from animals is worse than CO2 releases.
Rob Cooley, 25-year-old Sustainable Energy and Building Technology Humber College student lives a vegetarian lifestyle for environmental and ethical reasons.
He cooks most of his meals from home with ingredients like rice, lentils and chickpeas to ensure he gets all the required nutrients.
Cooley points out some of the key environmental factors damaging the planet.
“Greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture are higher than the transportation industry combined. Rain forests and green areas are also being destroyed at an alarming rate to make room for cattle.”
Cooley suggests a meat-less diet, which would decrease pollution, energy use and gas emissions.
“Reducing meat intake would help everyone of these problems that will cause climate change, ecosystem destruction and eventually food shortages,” said Cooley.
According to Fauster, a large portion of people prefers eating what they’re culturally familiar with, or they follow their palette and eat what tastes good. But what many people don’t know is that eating vegan opens a whole world of taste.
“[By eating vegan], you won’t be lacking in nutrients and you’ll actually absorb more nutrients because it’s easier for the body to digest.”
She uses the example of eating things that are coconut-based or high in nuts and seeds. These foods have lots of healthy oils and fats, which are a lot easier to digest than animal-based fats. These are fats that the brain and body needs for daily function.
As more people explore the world of a plant-based diet, we can then reduce our carbon footprint and lead a healthier and more humane lifestyle.