“I doubt you’ll make it to the end of the day, much less the end of the week,” Emma Johnson, my 18-year-old sister said, as she sliced a large stick of Boar’s Head pepperoni to eat with her beloved Cracker Barrel sharp cheddar cheese. This was one of the several jokingly-negative comments I received from family members over the past week as I attempted to eat vegan.
Since 2015, the US vegan population has jumped from just 0.4 percent of the total population to 3.5 percent according to an article by WTVOX. While people choose to adopt the vegan diet for various reasons, a popular basis for the switch is to benefit the environment. However, there is a debate over whether or not veganism has any environmental benefits. And there is also the question of whether it is even practical for a busy student with non-vegan parents to consider swapping to such a complicated diet.
If someone eats vegan, yes, it can be more beneficial towards the environment than a regular diet. But, cutting out all animal products and continuing to eat food shipped from around the world does more harm than good in comparison to eating a relatively normal but local diet. Think about how much carbon is emitted on the flights to and from Colorado for your almond milk and Peru for your blueberries. Think about the harmful chemicals and preservatives that are used to keep food from spoiling on the journey. Eating locally raised chicken is better for the environment than eating beans shipped from China.
To be clear: Veganism is extremely beneficial toward the environment. When livestock farming is unnecessary, water pollution and usage decreases and helps improve growing conditions. Livestock farming takes up 83 percent of the world’s farmland and produces 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions according to The Guardian, and, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture is responsible for almost a quarter of the world’s emissions. If everyone stopped eating all animal products, close to 14.4 percent of all the world’s greenhouse gas emissions would come to a halt.
While these statistics are promising for the future impacts of veganism, it’s unrealistic to expect every human being to drastically change their diet — especially considering well-intentioned younger people who do not have the means to do so. Technically my sister was correct in her prediction that I wouldn’t last a day eating vegan. I didn’t think about the fact that we barely had anything in the house that was suitable for this new diet. By the time I was halfway through day one I was already a failure. No worries, though, because the next day my mom and I went shopping, and I was able to stick to veganism over the next six days.
I am one of six in my family, so while we’re able to buy different food for a week, I could never make the complete switch without my whole family jumping on board too. Vegan food is generally more expensive too, which could cause a financial strain on many families who want to do their part.
If you want to make an impact but are unable to change your entire diet, you can still make an impact by cutting down on dairy and meat products. According to a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, it is better to have meat just once per day and cut out dairy than be completely vegetarian. Depending on your current diet, this may be a reasonable switch to make. So, while I will probably not go vegan anytime soon, I am definitely going to try to ease myself into it with this “flexitarian” diet. If you are in a position where you can try going vegan or at least cut down on your intake of meat and dairy products, I urge you too. It doesn’t seem like much, but altogether, it can make a big difference.
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