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

Which Plant-Based Milk Is the Best for You and the Environment?

It is particularly difficult to be dairy-free these days, because dairy milk is literally everywhere. We’ve all been told to drink milk to have strong bones and up until a few years ago, I didn’t suspect it could actually harm my body. I did a food intolerance test to confirm what I suspected and dairy was at the top of my list. Did you know that almost 70% of the population in the world is lactose intolerant? Some people probably are and don’t even know about it. So here it is, even Santa will get a glass of plant-based milk this year.

I can’t tell you how much better I feel since I stopped drinking milk and avoiding dairy products. As a cheese lover, this is not always easy but my guts have been thanking me and I decided it was my priority. When you think about it, why would we even drink something that is naturally designed as a growth hormone for baby cows, not fully grown humans? Also, dairy milk production has a huge negative impact on the planet, on top of being cruel to cows. There are many reasons why I think every adult should choose to consume plant-based milk instead, it’s definitely worth considering and at least trying (more research needs to be done for children though). From all options you can find in most supermarkets, the main ones are: soy milk (the original plant-based alternative), almond milk, rice milk and oat milk. Let’s go through a quick comparison:

What alternative is best for me?

Soy Milk

Pros: high in protein, fortified in calcium and potassium, source of vitamins B2, B12 and D, available unsweetened or flavoured (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla), contains all the essential amino acids, easy to find in supermarkets.
Cons: soy is one of the most common allergens, and not everyone likes the taste.
Best for: baking, cooking

Almond Milk

Pros: contains more calcium than dairy milk, high in vitamins A, D and E, high in monounsaturated fatty acids (considered helpful in weight loss and weight management), low in calories, has a popular nutty taste.
Cons: low in protein compared to other plant-based milk, nuts are also a common allergen.
Best for: cereals

Rice Milk

Pros: contains as much calcium as dairy milk, has a naturally sweet taste, non-allergenic so it’s a good option for people with dairy, soy and nut allergies.
Cons: low in nutrients, rich in sugar, high in carbohydrates.
Best for: smoothies

Oat Milk

Pros: good nutrition and includes more calcium than dairy milk, good source of soluble fibre (which supports heart and digestive health), fortified with vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.
Cons: high in calories (as much as dairy milk) and unsweetened options can be hard to find, not suitable for gluten-free diets (unless specifically labelled as such).
Best for: coffee, tea

What alternative is best for the planet?

Now let’s have a look at the impact it has on the environment. The production of a plant-based milk cuts the water use by at least half compared to dairy milk, the emissions by at least two thirds, and significantly decreases the land use too :

From the article: “Climate change: Which vegan milk is best?” – BBC UK

It’s time to make the switch!

From what I gathered, soy milk and oat milk seem to be the best alternatives by far. But no matter what plant-based milk you pick, it will always be a much better option than dairy milk, for the planet but also for yourself as an adult. What’s your favourite milk alternative and why?

Big Girl x

How to Improve Your Diet to Positively Impact The Planet

burger and fries

Have you decided to become a healthier version of yourself? If so, I’m proud of you and I’m looking forward to sharing that journey with you! What if doing that also gave you the opportunity to take actions and save the planet? I hope you are interested because you can actually do both at the same time. Sustainable nutrition is the future we need.

What is sustainable nutrition?

What I mean is changing your food choices provides the simplest and largest impact you can have on the world and your body. Meat production has a heavy impact on the environment and it’s no secret to anyone that red meat (especially beef) requires a lot more land and more water to produce than poultry, resulting in significantly higher climate-warming emissions. By simply choosing chicken over beef for example, you could reduce your dietary carbon footprint by half! Or you can simply remove animal products from your diet to have an even bigger impact on the planet.

Is a plant-based diet the only solution?

I’ve always found it annoying when someone who chose to be vegan tries to make you feel bad for eating meat, but the truth is their diet is the least damaging for the planet. After a lot of research on the matter, my view on the topic has evolved quite a lot over the past few years. I think it’s all about limiting your carbon footprint without necessarily having to remove your favourite foods from your diet, sometimes it makes a vegan diet easy to adopt, sometimes it feels impossible. So for now I’ve decided to go halfway and have at least one plant-based meal a day.

Huel, short for Human Fuel

huel products in my kitchen

One of the reasons I love this brand so much is that they really care about the environment and are making an effort to talk about it more: “Halting climate change is possible, eating for our health is achievable and lowering our carbon emissions is simple. It all starts with changing the way we eat. It’s time to change the way we think about food.” Huel is 100% plant-based and any food waste becomes renewable energy. They provide all nutrients you need and they constantly innovate with new flavours, no wonder why they keep growing (and it’s really good news for the environment).

What can you do to improve your diet and reduce your carbon footprint?

  • choose fish/poultry over beef/lamb
  • choose plant proteins over animal products
  • eat less food high in sugar/fat
  • avoid fried foods
  • limit your consumption of alcohol
  • eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes (lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas), nuts and seeds

How I choose to contribute

Personally, I skip breakfast as part of my intermittent fasting so I have only 2 meals a day (which is not recommended for everyone so make sure you talk to a dietician if you have any doubts). I have Huel for lunch (I love their coffee caramel black edition, I add matcha powder to it) and I eat mostly fish or poultry for dinner (more and more rarely red meat compared to before but it still happens occasionally).

I have nuts as a healthy snack and include a lot of fruits in my diet. Also, I don’t eat gluten anymore and avoid dairy products as my body doesn’t seem to tolerate any of these very well. Gluten-free & dairy-free diets are not always easy to follow but it also benefits the planet, not just me. Bearing in mind I want it to be a lifestyle I can adopt in the long run, not just a temporary measure.

Want to find out more?

If you want to read more on the topic, check out the links below:

What positive change for both your health and the planet have you made so far?

Big Girl x