To live more environmentally sustainably was a challenge I set myself at the beginning of 2018, and since then it has led me down paths of discovery in relation to my plastic use, carbon footprint, consumerism patterns, and most recently my diet.
I have an academic background in environmental science which has taught me all about the impacts from agriculture and food production. My online blog, Less Waste Laura branches into areas such as food waste impacts and it became clear to me that my diet was the next thing to tackle in order to continue living more sustainably.
The decision to take on the Veganuary (vegan January) challenge this year came about quite literally as food for thought, over the dinner table as we discussed plant-based diets and the impacts of our eating habits. Doing the challenge as a three (myself, my Mum Andrea and my Dad Keith) meant practically, and logistically, it could be easier (fewer meals to make), and there was something about sharing accountability and experiences which could make it feel that bit easier.
As a family, and individuals, we have really delved into where our food comes from, and how it is produced since beginning Veganuary, and we have adapted quite well.
It has forced my Dad to try and understand why rearing, changing, keeping and using animals for food was such an issue, and why he should become more aware. My Dad has shocked himself at finding peppers and hummus quite satisfactory as a late night snack, and I have been pleasantly surprised at my ability to not have ‘food envy’ when others are eating non-vegan options.
It has made my Mum think that the food system is a sorry state of affairs, notably the amount of yellow stickered, reduced-price food which will be wasted, which seem more unjust when you’re on a vegan diet and can’t choose those items.
There is also too much plastic – convenience is king – but why? Are we really so busy and important that we need everything ready-made and wrapped in plastic? Shouldn’t we slow down, make our own and think about where our food comes from?
There is a definite link between the way we feed a nation, and our God given instructions for creation care; however there definitely isn’t a concrete one size fits all approach to diets across the world. What might be sustainable, and classed as creation care, in one part of the world simply won’t be the case for every country.
The main challenge which has become apparent has surrounded milk. There are so many options (cows, oat, almond, rice, coconut, and soya to name a few) and each leaves their own footprint on the environment. Footprints range from carbon emissions from production, water use, travel distances, and packaging – just some of the things to take into consideration when choosing which milk to drink.
Pre-Veganuary, the choice seemed simple. Cow’s milk in reusable glass jars from Scottish local dairies for those who drink dairy, and oat milk for those looking for a dairy alternative. However, having done the vegan challenge, we’ve found which milk to consume a bit problematic. For example, milk-alternatives don’t seem to match up like-for-like, and non-dairy options have significantly increased our waste from new tetra pack purchases which doesn’t quite sit well. And the idea of making oat milk when we’re all busy is something we haven’t had time for.
Other challenges include the realisation that lots of stuff has dairy in it, some rural Scottish villages simply don’t have vegan options, as well as the significantly increased waste produced from vegan alternatives (meat and dairy specifically).
Reflection and Encouragement
Following the #Bible2020 readings on God’s Creation and God’s goodness, has been a good reminder that we have nothing that is not given to us by God:
“We begin the year declaring the truth that God created the heavens and earth and proclaiming that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Bible 2020
This has kept our minds focussed on God’s daily provision for us, and aware that we have upset the balance of creation by greed, mismanagement and abuse (part of what happens in a fallen world, aka a result of our sin).
Although in our life the climate emergency has had little impact, we see it across the globe; my friends in Malawi asking me to pray first about lack of rain, then for dams that might burst. Through my work with Tearfund, I am now speaking almost daily about the injustice that the climate crisis is and how those most impacted are the least at fault. God’s “very good” creation has been spoiled. So, as part of our whole life discipleship and worship we need to learn to care again for what He so carefully created to sustain us, give us enjoyment, and inspire us to worship and thank him for his care and provision of all that we need in abundance. We need to return to one of our Creator’s first requests of us: to tend His garden, our world.
Read up on how this makes such a huge impact. It is so much easier to reduce your meat and dairy, and take on a more plant-based diet, when you know how much good this is doing for our planet. More practically, websites like Veganuary, and recipe books like ‘More Plants, Less Waste’ from Max Le Manna and ‘Vegan-ish’ from Jack Monroe, are super helpful guides to transitioning your diet with pockets of helpful information along the way.
Doing it with your family, friends or colleagues. This will help massively with accountability and encouragement in equal measure. My mum has a brilliant ability for whipping up a delicious meal out of new items, meanwhile my Dad and I will eat mostly anything. My dad’s work colleagues presented him with a vegan chocolate supply on his birthday, eight days in to Veganuary!
Journey with me! Join my family and I through my social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter), all under @LessWasteLaura! Check out my website for more blogs, tips, and tricks for living more sustainably and check out the work of organisations like Tearfund for information about how the climate crisis is hitting those in need the most.
This ‘Meet the Community’ article was written by Laura, for the Wild Christian ‘Nature and Food’ email.
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