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Taste Test the Vegan Life

Taste Test the Vegan Life

As first published in Otter Sustainability Newsletter

A vegan diet has an extraordinary effect on your environmental footprint, but it can seem so daunting. Sonya Blan suggests starting small with a 30-day challenge.

If a vegan diet seems too full-on, consider starting with a short challenge such as VeganEasy.org

On a seemingly ordinary Monday night, the 2nd of November 2014, my partner went to his weekly poker game, and I was left to feed myself. Since my cooking leaves much to be desired, I settled for sausages and eggs. I also decided to watch Cowspiracy: The Sustainability SecretI only vaguely knew what is what about. To be honest, I knew there was a chance I was going to go off meat after watching it, but I had no idea why. I was under the impression I was going to watch a lot of horrible footage showing the slaughter of animals for our consumption. I was wrong.

As the name suggests, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret focuses instead on the effects of animal agriculture on our planet. This was a game changer for me. To say the statistics in this documentary shocked me is a huge understatement. I went from omnivore to vegan in the 1 hour and 25 minutes it took me to watch it.

Almost three months later, I am still following a plant-based, whole-food diet. After finishing the documentary, and deciding that I had to change my diet immediately, I signed up for Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s 30-Day Vegan Challenge. Every day I received an email with a video to help me on my journey to vegan living. The videos covered a range of topics, like eating out in restaurants, sticking to a plant-based diet while travelling, and reading labels in a grocery store. It was a huge help, and it’s not the only 30-day challenge out there. The Sydney Vegan ClubVeganEasy.org and Veganuary are just three others I know of.

Every day I posted my plant-based meals and snacks on my Instagram page with the hashtag #30dayveganchallenge, and after a while friends and family became curious and started asking me questions: “Are you really vegan?” Or, “You’re vegan? But you love steak!” And quite often, “So what did you eat today?” But I stayed positive, patiently answered questions, and saw some results: this January, my sister, two of her best friends and my cousin all took part in a 30-day vegan challenge.

In one day, a vegan diet can save one animal's life, 4100 litres of water, over 20 kilos of grain, over nine square metres of forest and 4.5 kilos of CO2.

All this enthusiasm got me thinking – what would happen if a population the size of Australia’s went vegan, even for just 30 days? Well, I did the calculations, and here’s what I’ve found.

According to the research in Cowspiracy, each day, by choosing not to eat animal products, the average vegan saves over 4,100 litres of water*, over 20 kilos of grain, over nine square metres of forest, 4.5 kilos of CO2 and one animal’s life – in one day. So what would happen if everyone in Australia made that choice for just 30 days in the span of their lifetime? I’m so glad you asked!

  • On day one, we would save over 23 million animals’ lives. Woah. So what’s 23 million animals saved for 30 days? 690 million animals.

Need I go on? Okay, I will.

  • In that same first day, we would save nearly 207 square kilometres of forest. A phenomenal amount of land is used to grow livestock (and the grain to feed them), and a growing population means deforestation for livestock is increasing. Last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature listed eastern Australia among 11 places that will account for 80% of deforestation globally by 2030.
  • In one day we would save an astounding 103.5 kilograms of CO2. Because livestock produce a lot of methane, one expert has said that cutting out red meat may reduce emissions more effectively than not driving cars. So what if, day by day, we could save 103.5 million kilos of CO2? At the end of our 30-day challenge we would have saved 3.1 billion kilos of CO2.
  • Meat production requires a lot of grain to feed livestock. So if 23 million people decide to go vegan, and they’re all saving 20 kilos of grain per day, we could save a whopping 13.8 billion kilos of grain over 3o days. Imagine what we could do with all that food! According to a Cornell University ecologist, the US could feed 800 million people each year with the grain it grows for livestock.
  • On average, 4,163 litres, or roughly four tonnes of water, is saved each day by those on a vegan diet. If the entire Australian population went vegan, 92 million tonnes of water could be saved in one day. At the end of the 30 days, approximately 2,760 million tonnes of water could be saved. According to NASA’s new satellite data, 21 of Earth’s 37 largest aquifers have passed their sustainability mark, and they can take thousands of years to fill up. But in 30 days, we can make a simple change and save nearly three billion tonnes of water.

If you’re worried at all about climate change, the sustainability of the planet, your children’s and grandchildren’s future, a vegan diet is a great choice. Start small, and do a challenge – VeganEasy.org or something similar – and change the world. One day, and one delicious lentil burger, at a time.

*Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics in this article are from www.cowspiracy.com/facts, and have been converted to the metric system.

- See more at: http://otter.org.au/taste-test-the-vegan-life/#sthash.ohHGiFLl.dpuf

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