The 22nd of April is International Mother Earth Day, a celebration of Earth and the life it provides us with. It’s easily forgotten in our busy schedules, but without our planet, we would not be able to live and thrive as we do today – we wouldn’t even exist!
This day is also an important reminder of the need for a sustainable future, one which cares for the environment instead of destroying it for our own benefit. Humans should show some appreciation to the planet by making an effort to protect the environment and the ecosystems within it. So far we have not been great at doing this, but as people are becoming more aware of the damage already caused by humans, differences can – and will - be made.
As vegans, we are already contributing towards a more sustainable future and helping to care for our environment. Below are some of the ways we are helping to do this:
• Individuals who follow a vegan diet have lower greenhouse gas emissions than those who ingest animal-based products. In fact, it has been found that individuals who often consume meat in their diet produce twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as vegans! This is a significant finding, particularly when considering the negative impacts of global warming.
• The amount of water required to feed a meat eater is approximately three times as much as is needed to feed a vegan. In a world which favours meat eating, this is an issue – soon there won’t be enough water in the world to cope with our expanding population and demands, and this is also affecting our ecosystems.
• 50% less land is used to grow vegan food. In contrast, animal agriculture is the main cause of deforestation – forests are chopped down to create space, either for the livestock themselves or for the crops which are fed to them. Shockingly, 91% of Amazon deforestation is a result of the animal agriculture industry. This not only means fewer trees but also fewer habitats for the animals of this world which can ultimately lead to extinction.
If you want to learn more about positive environmental impact switching to a vegan diet can have, take a look at the Plate Up for the Planet campaign. If you’re already a vegan or are incorporating veganism into more aspects of your life, you’re helping the environment in more ways than you might think! However, if you’re looking to make some smaller differences in your everyday life, the list below can help:
Plant a tree
One more tree in the world is always a welcome sight and will provide homes for insects, birds and small animals. If you don’t have a garden, growing flowers in a window pot will attract bees and other pollinators which play a vital role in our ecosystem.
Reduce food waste
We need to reduce the amount of food waste filling up our landfills. It’s a concerning problem; food decomposing in a landfill produces large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas which is more damaging than carbon dioxide. In addition, more land is needed as this waste increases. To keep your food waste to a minimum, only buy as much as you need to prevent items from going out of date and ending up unusable. If you make more food that you can eat, save leftovers for another day or freeze for a later date. Products which are in date but you no longer want to use can be donated to a food bank.
Composting is another effective way you can reduce waste and limit the food going into a landfill. Not only this, using your own organic compost is better than relying on chemical-based fertilisers, which infiltrate into the soil and can enter bodies of water. It also helps more plants and trees grow, creating habitats and greenery which is always beneficial to the environment!
Cut down on Plastic
Plastic pollution has been a major topic over the past few years, and for good reason. Plastic is extremely slow to degrade and has created huge problems for our oceans, lakes, rivers and beaches. This is extremely harmful – and often fatal – to birds and marine life. It is also dangerous to life on land, as small animals such as hedgehogs can choke on or get trapped in pieces of discarded plastic. Of course, the huge amount of plastic we dispose of every year clogs up our landfills too.
You can make many steps towards decreasing the amount of plastic in your life. Invest in glass or metal straws instead of plastic ones – this will save you money in the long-run as well! Take a tote bag to the shops so you don’t have to buy plastic carrier bags, and bring your own reusable cup when you buy takeaway coffees. Choose food containers made from sustainable materials – ones made from glass or stainless steel will also last a lifetime. Fabric sandwich bags are a fantastic way to reduce plastic every day - you could even get creative and make your own!
Reuse Jars and Containers
Reusing old jars and containers will also cut down on plastic and landfill waste. You can use them for just about everything!
Glass jars are great for storing spices, nuts and seeds but can also be used for safely carrying on-the-go meals – there are no leakages when the lid is screwed on properly! Put miscellaneous items in containers to introduce more order to your home, or use a larger one as a makeshift compost bin to keep in your kitchen. Place the dry ingredients for a vegan cake or cookie inside a jar and tie a recipe label around the neck – these make sweet little presents and are especially handy when you have a lot of people to buy for! If you don’t have a garden or outdoor area, you could even use jars and containers to grow herbs and other small plants, creating your own indoor green space.
Whether you choose to do several of the things above or decide to start off with just one or two, be assured that your vegan lifestyle is helping the environment massively - more so than you’re probably being given credit for! Please also take a moment to appreciate the planet this International Mother Earth Day. We are often so concerned with the events of daily life that we take for granted the simple, life-giving beauty of the world around us.
by Ruby Guyler.
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.