Global Warming & Climate Change: Is the Future Vegan?

protect nature and save the planet

Environmental topics have been discussed for centuries. Although it feels like it’s only started to become a popular discussion recently, not only from “hippy activists” but from everyone this time. Not sure if we really needed a worldwide pandemic to finally open our eyes, but it seems like it had an impact on people. My recent travels in Southeast Asia & the Pacific definitely contributed in my willingness to care more, it changed my mindset forever. Avoiding plastic and chemicals in products we use every day, recycling properly, prioritising walking over driving for short distances…etc. All of these actions are great and useful, but are they enough?

Current situation in 2021

Let’s start with a definition of two key terms. “Global warming” is due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere. Whereas “Climate change” refers to both human and naturally produced warming, as well as the effects it has on our planet. Now let’s move to what’s happening and what will happen if we don’t do anything. The planet has warmed by an average of nearly 1°C in the past century. Human activity is said to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate, and ecology. So far, these changes have already had drastic impacts on all life on Earth.

If we don’t do anything and the planet keeps warming up faster than the natural process, we will face disastrous consequences. It would mean floods or droughts on various areas, the destruction of rainforests, and even the extinction of many other species. This list is not exhaustive and the speed temperatures are rising is now faster than ever before. To some degree (no pun intended), climate change is a natural phenomenon. But global warming is man-made… Which also means we can do something about it. Do you want to know what your environmental footprint is? WWF will calculate it for you by taking this quick questionnaire.

isolated house on ice melting
Trust me, I wish it wasn’t true.

How our diet impacts the planet

Our diet plays a huge part in our carbon footprint. Food is responsible for a quarter of global emissions. And almost 60% of food emissions come from animal products. Beef has the biggest carbon footprint, by far. And the main issue is the amount of beef that the world currently demands. The global population getting richer only makes things worse. We are asking big agriculture for more meat than we can sustainably produce. In comparison, a portion of the highest-impact vegetable proteins emits less than the lowest-impact animal proteins…

Some figures about what we eat (provided by Friends of the Earth):

  • 14.5% of global climate changing gases are due to meat and dairy production (more than all forms of transport)
  • 50% of habitable land around the world is used to produce food
  • 45,000 early deaths could be prevented in the UK every year if we ate low meat diets
  • Over 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK annually
  • 8 billion animals are killed for meat every year in the UK

These figures are shocking. The fact that half of the world’s habitable land is used for agriculture should ring alarm bells. Basically, we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter – but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away. Would you be prepared to change your diet for the planet?

What we can do about it

Eating more sustainable meat can already make a big difference. But less meat is nearly always better for your carbon footprint than sustainable meat. It is absolutely essential to reduce your meat consumption to curb climate change. Is going vegan the answer? The climate impact of plant-based foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products. So of course a plant-based diet would drastically help reduce emissions. Switching to veganism (completely plant-based) would deliver the largest emissions savings, followed by vegetarianism (including eggs and dairy) – It’s no surprise. Bearing that in mind, you don’t have to go that far if you’re not willing to. To sum things up nicely:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Michael Pollan

The bottom line

For some people, completely cutting out meat and dairy is not an option. If that’s your case, thankfully there are plenty of other ways to contribute! For example:

  • Go flexitarian
  • Eat vegetarian one day a week
  • Ban meat from your breakfasts
  • Eat more whole and locally grown foods
  • Reduce food waste
  • Eat less junk food
  • Eat smaller portions

I previously shared 3 awesome tofu recipes if you’re willing to give plant proteins a go to help reduce your meat consumption. You could also just cut out beef from your diet. Switching to pork, cod, chicken or soya beans could drastically reduce CO2 emissions. But personally, I do think the future is vegan. It’s a matter of time before consumers force food industries to adapt to the new demands. Have you already taken a step in that direction?

Big Girl x

Christmas Debate For The Environment: Real or Artificial Tree?

real or artificial tree for christmas

I remember walking down a residential street in London after Christmas, 2 years ago. It was full of pine trees left on the pavement, waiting to be collected… Not only was it annoying for pedestrians, but it really looked like a long tree cemetery. I imagined them talking to each other: “Oh you’ve been chopped too? Now they’re getting rid of us like a vulgar piece of rubbish”. Ok, I know it’s weird to imagine trees speaking… But they used to be living things after all. I think it’s cruel to cut them just for a few weeks. For that reason, I’ve always preferred a fake tree for Christmas. But now I’m starting to wonder if it is indeed the right choice for the planet. What if fake trees are actually worse for the environment? I have gone through the pros & cons for both options below.

Should I buy a real tree for Christmas?

Buying a real tree would allow me to have different decoration styles at home if I ever fancy a change. Maybe I’ll go for a different size, shape and/or type of tree each year for example. It smells good too. It makes me feel like I’m bringing nature inside and that is not something a fake tree can provide. And maybe it’s actually good for the planet, because if people didn’t buy them, farmers wouldn’t plant them! Pine trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the 8-12 years it takes to grow to a reasonable height, which is cleaning the air and helping slow climate change. But then, what do I do with it once Christmas is over? I’m sure I can recycle it, somewhere, somehow… but it seems like a hassle. Also, I can’t help but thinking it’s not right to remove these trees from their roots.

… Or should I buy a fake tree instead?

Most artificial trees are made of plastic and manufactured in China, so it’s actually not the best option for the planet because its contribution to global warming is much higher than a real local tree (if it’s then recycled properly). They sell really nice looking ones though, real trees don’t always look better. And they’ll probably be cheaper in the long term depending on their quality. Not to mention it will save me from doing tree shopping every Christmas. I’ll already have it at home ready to be unpacked and reused. Of course they don’t smell as good as a real tree but at least they don’t lose their needles (my 2 cats would definitely spread them everywhere). But then, keeping it means I need to store it and it takes quite some space…

I opted for an artificial tree myself a few years ago. It comes with artificial snow, fake pine cones, fake berries and LED lights all around (really convenient!). It has 3 parts that are super easy to assemble or dissemble, it takes less space that way. But according to the Carbon Trust, we will have to reuse it at least 10 years to have a lower environmental impact than that of a real tree. Challenge accepted. Below our (fake) Christmas tree and our (very real) cats wearing their Christmas jumpers, proudly for one, reluctantly for the other…

my cats wearing their jumper in front of our christmas tree

The bottom line: what’s the better choice?

I mean, the lowest carbon footprint would be to ditch the tradition and not having a tree at all… But it doesn’t really feel like Christmas if there’s no pine tree, does it? Below is my conclusion on the matter:

If you opt for a real tree:

  • Look up where the tree is coming from before you buy it (although it seems there is no need to worry so much about deforestation anymore as most of them come from a horticultural crop and aren’t felled from pre-existing forests).
  • Buy local so your money helps providing employment in the agricultural sector, it will have a lower carbon footprint too because less transport is needed.
  • Find out beforehand how to recycle it so it can be turned into compost – does your local council offer a Christmas tree collection service for example?
  • If you have space in your garden or on your balcony, why don’t you keep it as a permanent tree? (You would need to buy a potted tree with roots in that case).

If you opt for a fake tree:

  • Keep using it and make it last as long as possible!
  • When it’s time to replace it, consider other options like a real tree or decorating existing plants you may already have at home.

What did you go for? Did this post make you change your mind about your decision?

Big Girl x

The Great Barrier Reef Is Shrinking… It’s Time to Act

In January this year I’ve been lucky enough to see the Great Barrier Reef during my trip in Australia. I could have snorkelled there but I wasn’t comfortable under water and I was worried about hurting the fragile coral. So I did a scenic flight instead and saw it from above. It was probably the best way to appreciate how big this natural wonder of the world is. It stretches over 2,300 km!

I took this picture from the scenic flight tour, you can see the famous “Heart Reef” on the right. How beautiful is this?

David Attenborough talks about the impact of climate change on sea life in his movie A Life on Our Planet (hope you’ve watched it by now) and this is pretty alarming. The world’s largest reef system has lost half of its coral since 1995. They provide habitat for fish and other marine life, so if coral disappears it means sea life also disappears. Too much stress on these corals drives them to “bleach”, meaning they lose their algae which normally gives them their colour.

“We used to think the Great Barrier Reef is protected by its sheer size – but our results show that even the world’s largest and relatively well-protected reef system is increasingly compromised and in decline.”

Terry Hughes, Professor of Marine Biology

You may think that the Planet warming up by only 1°C is not much… But according to an IPCC special report, 90% of the world’s corals would be wiped out if it reaches 1.5°C by the end of this century. How do we stop this path of destruction?

The Government can always put in place new measures to try and save the planet but it is not going to be enough… I personally believe the biggest part has to come from individuals. It’s the general mindset that needs to change. This is a list of ideas of what we can all do:

  • Buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter
  • Buy more locally sourced seasonal food
  • Throw less food away
  • Walk or cycle when possible, instead of taking the car
  • Prioritise trains and buses instead of planes
  • Use video conferences instead of business travels
  • Make sure our home is well insulated

There are so many ways to contribute, I found a very good article from another blog here for example: 22 Ways to Save the Planet in 2020. On my end, I completely banned cow milk at home or products made with it. Various milk alternatives are so much better anyway that it makes it easy to replace. I reduced my consumption of red meat to once or twice a month only and prioritise fish more. I cook fresh products, from a farm or market whenever I can, and don’t throw anything away (it’s easier when you know what portion you need!). I include plant-based meals in my diet like Huel once a day. Since we moved in London, we don’t own a car anymore. This is not much but if it doesn’t represent a big sacrifice it should be done!

“You might say you don’t have control over land use, but you do have control over what you eat and that determines land use.”

Doctor Debra Roberts, IPCC Co-Chair

What is your way to contribute in this battle to stop hurting the planet?

Big Girl x

David Attenborough’s Message: A life On Our Planet

A life on our planet

I’ve been waiting for this documentary to be released for a while… It finally got available on Netflix yesterday! As a nature lover, I couldn’t wait any longer to watch it. I’ll tell you why you should watch it too. David Attenborough‘s life is fascinating. He was born at the right moment to be able to travel the world like never before, see the world like never before, show images like never before… But he also witnessed how humans started to destroy the planet, leaving less and less space for wildlife to sustain.

A man’s lifetime

This documentary shows how the planet evolved during his lifetime, what it could become if we don’t act now, but also how we can make changes to save it. It’s a reality check, an eye-opener and it doesn’t sugar-coat anything. It brings tears on your face, shows images that are not for the faint-hearted so you won’t be able to ignore what’s happening anymore. Everyone needs to see this, changes won’t happen overnight but our future looks pretty grim if we don’t act.

“This film is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. The story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake, and how, if we act now, we can yet make it right.”

David Attenborough

It’s not a pretty picture

From the moment Attenborough was born until now, the population of our planet has almost quadrupled, while the space left to wildlife has been halved. “We’re replacing the wild with the tame.”, he says. The atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen considerably. The temperature on Earth has increased by 1 degree, which resulted in a loss of 40% of the sea ice we used to have in Antarctica. The evidence is in front of us.

“Our planet is headed for disaster. We need to learn how to live with nature, rather than against it.”

David Attenborough

Endangered species

If you don’t have Netflix, the documentary Extinction: The Facts is also available on BBC player and is quite similar in the way that it also explores how this crisis of biodiversity has consequences for us all. We gathered the family (which includes me, my partner and our 2 cats) in front of our 65 inch TV to watch it together. Our oldest cat didn’t seem so bothered (as you would expect from a cat) but our 6 months old kitten was more than intrigued… Especially when they showed images of the poor koala trying to escape from the burning forest (see picture below). In this documentary, Attenborough suggests the global warming impact caused by humans makes us more prone to pandemics. We are disrupting our biodiversity.

luna in front of extinctions bbc documentary

It got personal

It’s particularly emotional for me as I was there when Australia had a “dark summer”. I’ve seen fires starting out of the blue just because of scorching temperatures, I’ve been to the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie and witnessed the damages on wildlife. I’ve also seen the grey sky lingering over Sydney and breathed what was probably not the best air I’ve ever breathed… It’s always a lot scarier when it’s in front of you because you can’t pretend the media exaggerates things. It is very real.

So… Have you watched it yet? Who else needs to watch it?

Big Girl x