I’m taking you all on a journey with me. Don’t worry, we aren’t going too far. We can still stay in the same neighborhood, see all of our friends and family…in fact nothing is going to change that much. It’s more of a shift – a SMALL alteration that will have a HUGE impact on our health and our environment. BUT: we are not going to name this journey, per se…
Because what I’ve found has been the biggest roadblock for me in starting this journey is defining it, and then announcing it. “I’m giving up meat.” “I’m going vegan.” Even though I am completely aware of how beneficial these lifestyle changes will be, for me, declaring them has been too difficult, too daunting, and makes me want a cheeseburger – and I don’t even like red meat. What if I have cravings – and give in? Does that cancel out my title as a vegetarian or a vegan, whichever extremity I choose? What about my friends who still have conventional, meat-eating habits – does this mean I can’t eat out with them anymore? I know my group will order a cheese plate or two before we even look at the menu. It feels like I would have to report this to someone and they’d make a ruling of whether or not I’d be denounced. But who is this superior?
Then it dawned on me. I don’t have to cut everything from my diet the first day, or the second, or even ever. Because the alternative would be to continue my regular diet (including tuna, salmon, chicken, eggs, and dairy) and choose to not consume consciously. To the other extreme I could eat more beef and pork – they’re cheap and I don’t hate them. I’ve realized that any change at all is better than no change. And a lifestyle change should excite me and inspire me, not scare me and make me feel trapped. I want to embrace a diet that I know is good for me (and tastes good) while reducing my impact on the environment. And I know it’s possible, even if I have to take baby steps.
My first step will be to cut out beef, poultry, and pork. I’m not going to swear off eggs, fish, or dairy just yet, but I am going to work on researching alternatives and trying different options. But if I slip, I slip. I’m not encouraging others to be lazy or saying one chicken sandwich is harmless – it’s not. But if the difference between me cutting my carbon footprint in half is deciding not to take on a dietary identity then so be it.
I’ve found a few apps that are sure to make this transition a bit easier, especially in social situations. One is called VegScan and it helps you discover what products have animal parts in them. A lot of processed foods are cooked in chicken stock even though they’re veggie dishes. And if it’s vegan you’re going for – though most products are proudly labeled – know that many food and cosmetic products contain gelatin (boiled skin, ligaments, bones, etc.) for texture or contain sugar, which is refined using bone marrow. Scan it with VegScan and find out if you’re in the clear!
VeganXpress is perfect for eating out, no matter what city you’re in. If you’re in your hometown, you likely already know the trendy vegan and vegetarian establishments out there, but what if your friend’s birthday dinner is at a steakhouse? Or you’re on a road trip and stop at a chain restaurant or fast food place? This app tells you what items on their menu are vegan or vegetarian. Obviously some places will have more options than others, and the choices may not be ideal, but it will help you avoid snooty looks from the wait staff and eliminate that feeling of being left out. Plus, your friends aren’t on this journey with you, and that’s their prerogative.
Finally, this app is great if you’re a nightlife person or just like to have a glass of wine at the end of the day. Vegaholic (ha!) tells you whether or not your cocktail contains animal parts. I know, I was shocked too when I found out this was even a possibility. But, the scientific processes behind producing beer, wine, and even some liquor require animal bones and blood or milk and egg proteins. Yikes.
So now I’m geared up and ready to begin my journey to a destination I’m still unsure of. But I feel better knowing that the Veg Police aren’t real and won’t come after me. I feel even better knowing that the ~20% of worldwide carbon emissions and environmental degradation caused by deforesting land for farm, feeding livestock, livestock waste, slaughtering livestock, transporting it, then turning it into waste once consumed, are no longer my doing.