At the start of my vegan year, I look at the reasons for why I choose VEGANISM + recipe for Vegan+Refined Sugar-free Pear and Apple Tarte Tatin.
Happy New Year, everyone! There’s nothing like a new start, a new beginning to have us all riled up with inspiration to go above and beyond, to kick-starting our goals for the year with renewed gusto fueled on hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow.
But while everyone looks forward, I take this chance to look back at my life last year – for it was the last 365 days that ended up becoming the fire that fueled me into the rest of my foreseeable life. This post has been in my drafts for over half a year now and has undergone more edits and do-overs than I can count, because as I evolved, so did it.
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, last year, I resolved to trying out a vegan diet, in the hopes of eventually transitioning to a full-time vegan. Remember, last year was the transition period: which means I did add milk to my morning coffee (until I discovered Nutramilk late into the year) and bake with eggs and butter with occasional binges of fried chicken. But as the year progressed and I found plant-based substitutes, the use of animal products in my kitchen declined steadily – something I’m sure you’ve witnessed as more and more of my posts began to get the ‘vegan’ tagline.
Now that I look back, I realize that giving myself a year to transition into a plant-based diet was the best thing I could have done. If it had been a split-second decision, chances are I would have given up on the ordeal before a month was out (like that gym I never go to). But the year gave me enough time to really understand my choices, know the proper why-s (not just a ‘hey, all the cool kids are doin’ it’) and I can now say with some confidence that I am completely happy with the direction I’m taking towards reducing my carbon footprint.
There are so many reasons people chose a vegan lifestyle – animal cruelty, greenhouse gases, shiny hair and skin (really?!?!), etc being the chief of them. And while I cannot justify or reason for others, I can talk for myself. Please understand, that I am not promoting veganism as the only solution, or as the healthiest lifesyle, nor am I telling you how to live your life – I would N-E-V-E-R-E-V-E-R presume to tell anyone how to live. But these are the reasons for me making the biggest change in my life. Now, instead of going into another long-winded monologue, I’m going to do a little Q&A with actual questions I got last asked in the last year:
1. Why did you decide to become a VEGAN?
I picked up a book ‘Best Food Essays of 2015’ from the local library and this article changed my life. It’s about how the faux-meat industry is revolutionizing the plant-based food industry; while I find the idea of plant-based foods that look and taste like meat thoroughly unappetizing and wasteful (how spoiled are we to say, ‘I’ll only eat plants if it looks like meat!’), one particular paragraph in the middle about the statistics of ‘Livestock and Climate Change‘ got to me.
Livestock (particularly cows) produce an excessive amount of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is about 24% more potent than CO2. It traps more heat inside our atmosphere, at par with the amount of CO2 produced globally by all modes of transportation (cars, bikes, buses, ships, trains, planes, etc). And like you and me, they also exhale CO2. Plus, they consume tonnes of food to produce meat and dairy, arable land that could have otherwise been used to make food for, well, humans!
We make more and more livestock animals through artificial insemination solely because they are delicious, but turn a briefly sympathetic, yet largely blind eye when other species of animals go extinct. Experts determine that between 0.01 and 0.1% of species of all bio-diverse life go extinct each year. If that doesn’t sound like much, 0.1% equals 2000 species by the lowest estimate and 200,000 by a higher estimate (to account for undiscovered species)! Each year! So much unique beauty lost forever.
I can either 1. blame the government and wait helplessly for 2. clean alternative energy sources 4. public transportation to become more accessible, uber chic and viable 3. OR I can cut out the amount of meat and dairy I consume. The choice was simple.
Short answer: for the environment.
2. But Agriculture/Livestock isn’t even the largest contributor of greenhouse gases?
True, burning fossil fuels is the largest contributor. But there’s not much we can do about that, can we? Fossil fuels are burned to produce 67% of all electricity, without which life as we know it cannot function. Unless the public can change their minds about nuclear energy, or optimize wind and solar energy harvest globally, we’re sitting ducks on the matter. Another major source of greenhouse emission (by offset) is deforestation to make way for housing/industry/farmlands. We clear out more and more forests to make room for an exponentially increasing population, trees which would have otherwise absorbed the CO2 from our air. Again, with the growing population, it’s another factor we cannot change within a decade. What we can change immediately, is what we put on our plates.
3. So you don’t really care about animal cruelty?
Honestly, I think humans do enough damage to themselves and other species with equal disregard. Do you remember the 1993 photo of the starving Sudanese Child and the preying vulture? And the video of the starving Polar Bear that’s now the latest face of climate change? I see them both with the same amount of pain and anger. Because we did that. We all did.
Humans are truly the scum of this universe – we have no regard for other life and maybe it fundamentally stems from all the ‘survival of the fittest’ talk we picked up in school, but I don’t think we have the right to survive at the cost of destroying so many beautiful creatures that are now suffocated out of life because of our innate powers at the top of the food chain.
4. What about protein, Vitamin D and other stuff we get from animals?
If I had a quarter for every time someone brought up protein into a vegan conversation!
I am not going to say that everything you get from animals, you’ll get in equal parts from plants. I am not going to swear that eating organic foods has changed my life (I hardly eat all organic). And I am most definitely not going to join hands with you as you protest GMO foods.
There are cultures all over the world (including a substantial part of the Indian subcontinent) that have survived just fine for centuries without ever tasting a piece of juicy steak, fatty bacon or a curried leg of lamb, thank you very much.
And if being a little nutrient deficient is the price I pay for helping hit the brakes on climate change, on my head be it! I call it accountability.
My guess is, humans evolve. You take meat out of the equation today and a few generations down the line, we won’t even need it. Besides, by then, the robots will do all the heavy lifting anyway.
5. Speaking of GMO…
No, we are not speaking of GMO. Because it is a subject that the world seems to be forever conflicted upon. The same world, where everyone wants affordable organic, everyone wants to live longer and healthier naturally, but no one seems to understand the demands of an exponentially growing population with more and more mouths to feed everyday. We have depleted all the nutrients from the earth a long time ago, and our crops are basically sucking on straws in an empty glass. According to the UN, the human population grew from 1.6 billion to 6 billion in the 20th century. Imagine that? It took all of time for us to reach 1.6 billion. Then in a matter of a mere 100 years we grew that 6 times? As of Oct 2017, there are 7.6 billion people in this world with roughly 83 million births every year [Source: World Population Meter]. With a manageable population a century ago, there was enough time for responsible farming practices that gave the land time to replenish itself naturally. But where’s the time now?
Also, the wasteful lives of the world’s top 1% only ever ends up affecting the bottom 3% – those people who cannot afford purified water, organic meals and decent healthcare.
So, when you find a better way to replenish the natural resources of the land we constantly feed off of like an ever-growing plague of locusts, without including any genetic engineering, pesticides or fertilizers into the equation, you let me know and then we’ll talk about the evils of GMO over a clean cup of organic coffee.
6. So if I stop eating meat and drinking milk, is it enough to save the world?
Probably not, because it’s just one of the many, many problems our planet faces. But it’s a perfect start, because once you successfully make a change to something as fundamental as food, you start questioning other aspects of your life and that will make a difference.
Shouldn’t I turn off appliances/devices when I’m not using them? Do I really need to carve out a Jack-o-lantern when that pumpkin could have fed a family? What is wrong with a plastic Christmas tree that lasts 10-15 years that gives actual Christmas trees a chance to live and make more oxygen? Why can’t everything be sold in bulk to reduce packaging? Can I recycle this into a vase or a planter instead of throwing it into the trash? How can I reduce my carbon footprint better? What can I do to fix this?
The world is desperately in need of intelligent people who aren’t afraid to shake up their lives for the betterment of society. Ask questions. Please, ask copious amounts of questions!
7. So what’s your New Year’s Resolution for 2018?
I have several ‘green’ things to accomplish this year:
1. Keep going strong with the vegan-diet – so everything you see on this blog starting today will definitely be plant-based.
2. Reduce waste that leaves my home through composting and buying in bulk. We forget that Reduce and Reuse is more important than Recycling. I am hoping to track the amount (in weight) of trash that leaves my home and hopefully reduce it by half before the year is out. I’m taking notes from Trash is for Tossers.
3. Go out more into nature – my husband and I have 12 nature hikes planned for this year, with varying complexities, and we’re super excited for each of them! Every second you spend out in nature, your desire to preserve its beauty increases tenfold. The hard part is remembering it once you return to modern civilization. Keep going back often enough and hopefully the lesson ingrains.
4. Question more things in my life, and I urge you to ask me more questions. If I am doing something wasteful, I want to know. Chances are, I don’t realize it. Last November, my brother-in-law who was visiting us pointed out the numerous plastic produce bags we picked up from the grocery store. We always take our own cloth/jute grocery bags to the store, but in our self-righteousness, we’ve been so oblivious to the tiny produce bags we pick up fruits and vegetables in. I was so ashamed of my stupidity and immediately bought reusable produce bags. Now, whenever I’m at the supermarket, all eyes are on my cart, and I am a tiny bit happier knowing that someone else could be buying their own reusable produce bags!
Sources (and super good reads):
Have any green ideas for me? Have you made a planet-friendly change to your life? Let me know in the comments for me!!!
And enjoy this recipe for a VEGAN + REFINED SUGAR-FREE Pear and Apple Tarte Tatin. Enveloped in a sweet jaggery and cardamom caramel with pecans and cranberries to chomp on, this is an exquisite and scrumptious dessert to savor. Who says vegans are missing out on yumm?