Is Veganism Truly Sustainable?

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Rhea Shukla, Co-founder of 'The Switch Fix', shares her opinion on going vegan, eating local and more.
Growing up on a traditional sugarcane farm on the foothills of Himalaya, I woke up to see my Nanu ploughing the field every morning with the help of his trusted friends: two buffaloes. Mother would yell for me and my brother and we’d come hurricane-like eager to devour our favourite breakfast: homemade paneer paratha with a gross amount of butter melting over and thick freshly milked lassi. When we continued this tradition in the city, it was dulled by the lack of freshly milked lassi but the memory of my Nanu made up for it. Learning about climate change, learning about the consequences of the meat and dairy industry, I had to forget the image of our two family buffaloes and face the horrifying realities of mass-produced food.

Going Vegan

We’re lucky enough to be living in a time where vegan options are just a block away. By far, almond milk is my favourite. I’d devour a berries & banana almond milk smoothie just like I’d devour freshly milked lassi. At the time, the only remorse I felt was heaps of tetra packs being thrown away and not being fully recycled. On my hunt for a local vegan dairy, I stumbled upon the overlooked consequence of almond milk.

Almonds- The Switch Fix Blog

To Dairy or not to Dairy​

Most almonds, even soybean (another vegan favourite), is sourced from California, a region in drought. For every litre of almond milk, roughly 3500 litres of water is being used. One could take a shower every day for 6 weeks with that water. We could quench the thirst of an entire village for a day. That doesn’t mean we go back to cow, buffalo, goat milk. Instead of 6 weeks, you’d shower for 12. Instead of one village, it’ll be two. This wastage continues if we look at other popular vegan options.

The Switch Fix Blog- Avocado

Every Millennial’s dream - Avocados

It physically pains me to be adding avocados on the list but it’s true. On average, for every avocado that’s smashed and spread onto a crispy sourdough toast, it travels some 7,000 kms. Avocado is one fruit with a pretty big water footprint: it takes about 100 litres of water to get you that one bowl of guacamole. And guess where most of the cultivation happens? That’s right – California!

The Switch Fix Blog Chicken

Chicken and Egg problem

And cow, pig, goat, fish. If you could choose between eating one meal with meat vs. going an entire month without drinking a sip of water, what would you choose? Kidding, it’s not a choice. We’ll die without water.

The Switch Fix Blog- Soybean

The case against Mr. Bean

No, not that Mr. Bean, I mean soybean. Another major concern with the meat and dairy industry is the amount of land that’s required to produce the smallest output. The cultivation of soybean is plagued with the same problem. Latin America, Amazon, Atlantic region and more are undergoing deforestation at a mass scale for the cultivation of soybeans. So, where do we go from here?

Our proposal: Eat Local

The big players in the food industry have created a tremendous amount of pressure on farmers. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that farmers are forced to keep their prices down and also cultivate ‘exotic’ produce and consequently, compromise on their working and living conditions. It also paves the way for chronic poverty, child labour and a threat to their general health and well-being. Support local farmers that produce food that’s economical, and least wasteful for that region. What’s more important is that we eat what’s in season. The more we eat seasonally, the less wastage we create in storage and preservation.

Say hello to flavours beyond meat

It’s a common misconception that without meat, there’s no flavour left. “How can I truly enjoy food if I don’t eat a dead animal’s carcass?” Well, here’s how:

Vietnamese and Korean palette

Flavoursome, energy-rich, easy on the digestive system. I personally found Korean cuisine to be the easiest to transition to. I even switched up Sushi and Wine nights to Tteokbokki and Wine nights. Would also recommend Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish that’s just AMAZE.

Enjoy the lentil things

Lentils and legumes have a universe of their own. From Mexican bean and rice to the Middle Eastern fava, to the spicy black-eyed peas in Ghana, to the sweet moong dal fritters from Bangladesh. The most flavoursome of them all are the dishes close to home. Who doesn’t love a generous serving of Rajma Chawal? Or the occasional Chhole Bhature? Unpopular opinion, but my favourite dessert has gots to be Moong Dal ka Halwa. Oh yeah!

The Switch Fix Blog- Bean and Rice

Make Tabouleh not war

Hummus. The mighty delicious hummus. Light, refreshing, wholesome and ever-changing. Lebanese food is not just a spectrum of colors, but flavours. Funnily enough, I’ve always had Lebanese food with a group of friends and family. Maybe it’s the kind of cuisine that’s meant to be eaten together. So, we might as well share and reduce food wastage cos I’m sure as hell not going to be the one wasting that yummy beetroot pickle.

The Switch Fix Blog Hummus

In conclusion

So, to answer the question “Is Veganism truly sustainable?”, we have to be mindful of where our food is coming from. We have to be mindful of how we’re consuming and how we’re disposing off the waste. A vegan diet is sustainable when we consume options that aren’t wasteful while meat industry in its current form will never ever be sustainable. Meat-based diet has plagued our species with obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and more. Moving to a plant-based diet is not only important for our planet’s sustenance but ours too.

#Veganism #Opinion #MakeTheSwitch #Health #Sustainability #Simplified

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