Climate Change and Veganism: The Environmental Impact of our Diets

Is switching to a plant-based or vegan diet a necessary move in the fight against climate change?

It is safe to say that the matter of climate change has become one of the most talked about topics in the past couple of years. According to this year’s UN Global Assessment Report, we are headed toward a point after which climate change will become irreversible,

Recently, there has been a significant shift in the attitude towards climate change and our environmental impact. Young people especially have taken a huge stance in trying to gain the public’s attention to save the planet. Nobel Prize winner Greta Thunberg has undoubtedly played a large role in this.

The 19-year-old Swedish activist began spending her school days outside the Swedish parliament in 2018, in an attempt to gain stronger action on climate change by holding up a sign reading ‘Skolstrejk för klimatet’ (School strike for climate). This led to students across the globe taking Fridays off school and holding strikes for climate change, under the movement ‘Fridays for Future’.  

 

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These strikes have made many people think about what they could do to help the environment and reduce their carbon footprint. One of the biggest trends that has emerged in the fight to end climate change is veganism. Eating a plant-based diet helps with the issues of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, freshwater use, and water pollution.

According to environmental scientists, veganism is a major way in which we can help the environment. Approximately 20 per cent of the world’s population eats a vegetarian diet, while every one-in-three people in Ireland are trying to reduce the amount of meat and dairy in their diets. 

-The fighting vegans- 

Annabel Costello is a nineteen-year-old college student who has been eating plant-based for quite a while now.

“I have been vegetarian for years now, so the transition wasn’t too difficult.”

Since Miss Costello is a student, she has limited income to spend on her shopping but is adamant that “veganism can be surprisingly cheap; I mostly just cook veg, pulses, tofu and some spices which is obviously super cheap… Obviously vegan pizza, vegan ice-cream and stuff like that is expensive so I only really have them as treats sometimes.”  

She told me that the affects on her body have been nothing but positive.

She said: “I feel clean, less weighed down, clearer skin; healthy is the only way to describe it really.”

Her main tip for making the transition was, “not to dive straight in, become vegetarian, or even  flexitarian first because then the transition will come more naturally. I don’t think everyone needs to go vegan, it’s everyone’s own opinion.” 

However, she thinks a “world full of vegans would be cool as hell”. 

-We mean business-

Greens & co is a 100% plant-based restaurant in Galway city. Having recently won an Irish Restaurant Award for the best ‘free-from’ restaurant in Connacht, it is definitely a plant-based must try in Galway. 

 

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 “Most of our customers are in the aged 20-35 bracket, however, we have seen an increase in the 60+ bracket,” explained manager Alicja Torba. 

Another amazing factor of this restaurant is, as well as being 100% plant-based, they go above and beyond to be as eco-friendly and waste-free as possible. As an example, the incredibly talented chef, Lea Cochin, who makes her cheese substitutes from scratch, does not use cashews. The nut is the main ingredient in most vegan cheese recipes, however, their environmental impact is highly water intensive. 

“The food waste from leftovers on the plates is more than we waste in the kitchen!” said Ms Cochin. 

As the former owner of Wholly Cow burger joint, another Galway business that has recently shut their doors, Jacinta Lynam had a different view on the topic.  

“I’m not judgmental [of veganism] each to their own…we offer a vegan option on our menu and  it’s very popular.”  

Ms Lynam thinks that eating meat is important for your nutrition.

“You need to be mindful because you can lack in important nutrients such as iron and protein,” she added; such nutrients are thought to be predominantly found in meat.  

In regard to the environmental effects caused by meat, she said, “It depends. From our point of view, we source everything locally and that doesn’t leave a large carbon footprint… it’s important to source locally and get the best ingredients possible.” 

-The final take- 

It is very clear that the problem of climate change grows more and more each day, and we still have a lot of work to do to combat it. It is important to remember that we don’t necessarily have to change our entire lifestyle, but if everyone can make small differences in their day-to-day activities, such as eating a more plant-based diet, they can make a big change to our environment.  

 

More climate issues news from Galway here!

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