By: Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant.
A few years ago, I was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. When I was diagnosed, I was the healthiest I had been in my life. I went searching for answers; for a reason as to why I was in the situation I was in. While undergoing treatment, I became very interested in what we deem as ‘healthy’ in the United States, which led me to examine my food choices. So, with my unexpected abundance of free time, logically, I spent that time watching Netflix. After watching just one documentary, I jumped on the plant-based eating bandwagon and haven’t looked back.
The first documentary I watched was Food, Inc., which sparked my interest in food documentaries and food systems. For better or worse, I proceeded to watch all of the remaining documentaries. I recommend to anyone who is interested in a plant-based lifestyle to start out by watching my favorite, Cowspiracy.
The three statistics from my Netflix binge that made the biggest impact on me are: 1) we could see fishless oceans by 2048; 2) animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90 percent of the United States’ water consumption; and 3) cows produce 150 billion gallons of methane per day— a gas 86 times stronger than CO2. Emissions released from food production is estimated to increase by 80% by 2050. Large-scale animal agriculture directly and indirectly contributes to deforestation, water pollution, air pollution, greenhouse gasses, global warming, desertification, erosion, and obesity.
Although large-scale animal agriculture leaves one of the biggest footprints on the planet, it is a system that we can directly control. Not everyone has to make a radical change in order to make an impact. For example, if Americans participated in Meatless Mondays, it would be the equivalent to taking 30 to 40 million cars off the road for a year. Additionally, If the average global diet were to shift to a Mediterranean, pescatarian, and vegetarian diet, there would be no emission increase by the year 2050.
For me personally, there were also several ethical, social, and health related reasons that persuaded me to choose a plant-based diet. For example, vegetarians are 25% less likely to die of heart disease, have a reduced risk for some types of cancer, and have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
After watching all the documentaries, I saw the personal and global implications of my food choices, which made it was easy for me to avoid animal products. My reaction was very direct and fairly extreme, and I am not necessarily recommending everyone should take my course of action. Rather, I am sharing my experience to encourage everyone to find what inspires them and to try new habits at whatever speed feels the most comfortable.
I will be the first to admit that living plant-based can be complicated. I eat vegan when I am at home with no problems, but I find it challenging at times to eat out at restaurants or at a friend’s place. Although I know many would disagree (because they have told me); I don’t think being plant-based is about being perfect. It is about being conscious of your food decisions, and making the best decisions you can for your body. You might try it out, even if only for one day a week.
Bianca Greeff, graduate assistant in Environmental Humanities, working toward the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability. She loves Top Gear.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed within this blog are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Sustainability Office or the University of Utah.