Going Vegan for One Month: One Year Later

Going Vegan for One Month: One Year Later

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  • Lauryn Higgins

    Lauryn Higgins is a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is studying Journalism and Mass Communication. She spends her weekdays working in PR and her...

Lauryn Higgins

Hi friends and Twitter trolls, it's me Lauryn.

If you remember, a year ago I decided to go vegan for an entire month and chronicle my journey, right here on Asheville Grit. Over the course of the month, I had many highs and lows and was even blocked on Twitter by a local vegan food company for "not portraying veganism in a positive light." I truly felt I had reached rockstar status. That was, until I realized I had 46 Twitter followers. So maybe not a rockstar. Maybe just a band geek.

However, by the end of the month and the end of the journey, I learned and retained an incredible amount of information and gained a few new friends along the way. Unfortunately, as many of you may remember, I did not remain vegan. I tried for several days after the month had ended, but knowing that I wasn't being held accountable made it easier to order the slice of cheese pizza, instead of a vegan alternative. And to be honest, it felt nice to crawl back into my comfort zone where food was my security blanket.

But before I get too far in, if you're unfamiliar with what veganism is, let me break it down for you. Veganism is a lifestyle that rejects the use of any animal products. There are three main types of vegans: Dietary, Ethical and Environmental. Dietary vegans, the most common, consume a plant-based diet that excludes all animal products, such as meat, dairy, eggs, honey and whey. Ethical vegans are on a vegan diet, but also avoid the exploitation of animals for any purpose, including clothing, science, entertainment and more. Lastly, environmental vegans consumes a vegan diet based on the facts that animal agriculture and the farming industry are the leading cause of climate change.

Now back to my story.

After my month of being vegan ended, the holidays rapidly approached and I found myself trying to be healthy, but all too frequently saying, "I deserve this pizza." Or, "I earned this milkshake." It was back to my old ways.

Until a few months later...

I found myself home alone on a Friday night, a common occurrence for me, eating too much ice cream and incredibly upset that Golden Girls wasn't (and still isn't) on Netflix. Seriously, get your shit together Netflix. So, I settled for the documentary Cowspiracy.

I had already seen this film, but I think my subconscious was trying to tell me something. So, I pressed play.

Cowspriacy is a 90-minute documentary that follows a California millennial on a mission to uncover just how sustainable our food culture is. The baby-faced millennial was inspired by Al Gore's Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and his mission was to set out to see if these "inconvenient truths" were in fact, true.

What he uncovers through countless interviews with farmers, corporations, non-profits and politicians, is truly heartbreaking and mind-boggling. The facts that I had heard a few short months prior hit me differently this time around. The "inconvenient truths" were no longer inconvenient, they were facts that couldn't be ignored.

To prove my point, I complied several of these facts below (see a full list here), with their appropriate sources, because I'm in graduate school now, and I know you have to source....everything.

 

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. 

               Fao.org. Spotlight: Livestock impacts on the environment.

  • Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

              WorldWatch, November/December 2009. Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC, USA. Pp. 10–19.

             "Animal Feed Science and Technology" “comment to editor” Goodland, Anhang.

              The Independent, article Nov. 2009.

  • Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.

             Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2006.

  • Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.

               calculation is based on http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294 analyses that 51% of GHG are attributed to animals

  • Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.

               “USDA ERS – Irrigation & Water Use.” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. 2013

  • Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56% of water in the US.

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               Jacobson, Michael F. “More and Cleaner Water.” In Six Arguments for a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could save Your Health and the Environment. 2006.                              From https://cspinet.org/.

  • 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef. This includes the water used to produce the grain the cows eat, as well as the water the cows consume.

              “Water Footprint Assessment.” University of Twente, the Netherlands.

  • 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1lb. of eggs; almost 900 gallons of water are needed for 1lb. of cheese.

             "Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change & Health.” Environmental Working Group.

  • 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes. 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture.

             Jacobson, Michael F. “More and Cleaner Water.” In Six Arguments for a Greener Diet: How a More Plant-based Diet Could save Your Health and the Environment. Washington,                  DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2006. From https://cspinet.org/​

  • Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.

              Comfortably Unaware. Oppenlander.

  • We could see fishless oceans by 2048.

             National Geographic, article Nov. 2006

  • For every 1 pound of fish caught, up to 5 pounds of unintended marine species are caught and discarded as by-kill.

            Discards and Bycatch in Shrimp Trawl Fisheries.” UNITED NATIONS FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (FAO).

  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.

             Margulis, Sergio. Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Rainforest. Washington: World Bank Publications, 2003.

  • Land required to feed 1 person for 1 year:
    • Vegan: 1/6th acre
    • Vegetarian: 3x as much as a vegan
    • Meat Eater: 18x as much as a vegan [xvii]

           Robbins, John. Diet for a New America, StillPoint Publishing, 1987, p. 352

 

These are facts. Not thoughts and ideas conjured up in a liberal arts college classroom. But the harsh reality and wake up call that our current food culture is destroying our planet and our bodies.

And it's these facts and figure that made me rethink everything.

So....guys. I am officially a vegan.

For the last four months I've been living and consuming a vegan lifestyle, from beauty products to food to clothing. I've learned what I like and what I don't. I've learned just how incredible food is in nourishing our bodies, and just how damaging it can be. I've learned that being vegan isn't an overnight journey. Hell, it's not even a month long journey. I've learned that after eating plant-based foods for a few months, your body begins to crave them. I've also learned that you will still crave meat and dairy, and not to beat yourself up when you slip up and sneak a few bites of buffalo chicken dip at a friend's birthday party. And I've also learned that food is the ultimate medicine. It's what brings people together. It can nourish our souls and our bodies. So completely overhauling 24 years of a diet and lifestyle I've been consuming was not easy, but it certainly was possible.

Since switching to this lifestyle, I've not only learned just how harmful animal agriculture is for our environment, but I've also learned firsthand how easily a plant-based diet can improve your overall health. You are what you eat, so feeding your body nourishing food is vital for survival. 

I've also realized just how blessed I am to live in the city of Asheville. It's remarkable how forward thinking so many people are in this relatively small mountain town. From vegan restaurants to vegan retailers, I want to share just a few of my favorite local finds...so far.

  •  Nectar on Merrimon Avenue has the most ridiculous vegan nachos and Taco Tuesdays. Or if you want to start safe, go for their Berry Berry Delight smoothie.
  •  Barley's Pizza and Taproom has pizza by the slice and my personal favorite is a slice with soy cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. My twin brother actually ordered this when he was in town a few months ago, and I've been hooked ever since. (Hi, Connor!) Or try Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company's soy cheese slice with pineapple!
  • Neo Burrito's beer-battered tempeh taco. Holy freaking shit, this taco deserves its own restaurant or a key to the city. But before I get carried away, I have to be honest with you. I've been an Urban Burrito loyalist ever since I went there on a first date in college. Something about their crazy colored walls and pineapple salsa just makes me nostalgic for the days when two beers didn't give me a hangover. Needless to say, I finally ventured into Neo Burrito a few weeks ago, and I tried the beer-battered tempeh, and I found myself talking about it for days. Even if you're not vegan and just looking to try something new, this is for you.
  • Speaking of tempeh tacos, The Salvage Station has a great chipotle-lime tempeh taco with sesame lime slaw and crunchy Thai peanut sauce. Oh, and the most badass side of tater tots. If you haven't been here yet, you're missing out. Seriously, just cancel your plans this weekend and head over there. It's the only place that can get me off my couch on a Thursday night and head out for a drink...or tacos...or both. Just go!
  • All Good Coffee in Weaverville has vegan pumpkin spice chocolate chip muffins the size of your face. Enough said. Oh, and their coffee is out of this world too.
  • BROO Craft Beer hair care. Yes, a company put craft beer into shampoo and conditioner, made it vegan, and used the tagline, "Yes, beer does make everyone look better!" Mic drop.
  • Greenlife has incredible vegetable sushi. I pair it with steamed edamame and it's the perfect on-the-go lunch.
  •  No Evil Foods is a local company that makes 100% plant protein that has the taste and texture of meat. They currently offer a chicken alternative, Italian sausage alternative and a chorizo alternative. You can't go wrong with any of them, and considering I still hate tofu, this is my new go-to.
  • The Hop's mocha Oreo ice cream. Did you know Oreo's are accidentally vegan? I didn't, but the Hop certainly did. They paired the cookies with coffee and plant-based milk, and made my new favorite sweet treat. Their flavors change daily, so don't come Twitter trolling me if they happen to be out of it on the day you go.
  • Nine Mile. Anything is good here. I tend to go for their specials, but check them out for lunch. The prices are great and so are the portions.

 

All in all I have to admit living in Asheville has made transitioning to veganism very easy. There are countless options and no weird looks when I ask a server, "Do you have soy cheese?" This town has embraced what it means to live sustainably and I couldn't be more grateful to live side-by-side with like-minded individuals.

While I could give you a laundry list of reasons of why I converted to veganism, I'll keep it simple.

I am vegan for the ethical treatment of animals. I am vegan for my health. I am vegan for my planet.  And I am vegan for my future self.