Mama Gone Green is a blog dedicated to raising happy children and reducing our impact on the Earth. My name is Taryn and I am the mother of 2 young kids and an environmental studies instructor at a community college in Portland, Oregon. Please join me as I journey through life as a mama, teacher, knitter, photographer, gardener, and environmentalist!
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Reducing My Impact: A Year-Long Adventure. Month 1- Dairy and Meat
So, I have decided, starting now, in May, I will change one area of my life each month in hopes that I can slightly reduce my family's impact on this Earth. I am hoping to make these changes a permanent part of my way of life, and not just for the month that they are initiated in. By changing one thing at a time, I feel like I will have a chance to become accustomed to that month's change before tackling another. That way, I will have a better chance of success. Here is my list of hopeful changes:
May - reduce dairy and meat
June- reduce our garbage
July- reduce our water usage
August- reduce the amount I drive
September- reduce the use of plastics in our home
October- choose local
November- decrease packaging
December- reduce our consumption of 'stuff'
January- volunteer for the environment
February- reduce consumption of processed foods
March- strive for environmental change
April- say no to to-go (containers)
These categories are all things that I am already aware of and that I already try to do... I just feel that for each one, I can make more of a change or at least more of a permanent change. I may modify these goals, and the order I tackle them in, depending on how my life proceeds over these next months. These categories are actually all pretty intertwined, and there is plenty of overlap, which means that change in one moth will likely affect the goals of other months.
So here we go, May, Month 1. I am going to reduce my consumption of meat and dairy. Meat and dairy use many more environmental resources than eating as a vegan. Essentially this is because that animal is acting as a middle-man for calories. The grain or vegetables that the animal eats are consumed by the animal, but then some of those calories are undigested and turn into poop, the majority of what is digested is used to maintain the animal, and only a small portion actually goes towards producing the meat or dairy that will be consumed by the human. That results in a serious loss of calories. That means that a lot more land and a lot more water are required for humans to eat meat or dairy than if humans were to eat the grain or vegetables directly. However, this doesn't mean that all vegans have a low environmental impact.. if the tofu you are eating destroyed rainforests in Brazil to be grown and then was processed and shipped all over the planet before it got to your table....well, that is not exactly sustainable. But, if I can reduce my meat and dairy while still maintaining my current eating habits, I will be able to reduce my overall impact.
But here is the rest of the scoop: I have been a vegetarian for most of the last 16 years, however, during both pregnancies and breastfeeding I have eaten some meat. I am allergic to nuts and try not to consume large quantities of soy, so during pregnancy I have always started to crave meat for the extra protein. I never eat beef (which is much more of a stress on the environment that poultry or pork) and I don't eat that much meat as it is. I am not quite ready to completely give up meat again, as if I am reducing my dairy, I think I will need the protein. However, I do want to limit my meat intake to only a couple times a week and I will make sure that my meat is sustainably raised.
In terms of reducing my dairy consumption, I have to be honest and tell you that this is not entirely just for the environmental impact. I have pretty severe asthma that has been exacerbated by pregnancy (and by living in Portland) and I have decided to try to cut out most dairy and see if that affects my asthma. So, yesterday, I started a 2-week trial period in which I will have no cheese, ice cream (boo!) or dairy-based milk, but I will still eat yogurt and small amounts of butter. If this seems to help my asthma improve, I will continue. If it doesn't affect my asthma, I will reincorporate cheese, milk and ice cream back into my diet, but in smaller amounts than I am currently eating. Since I can't eat nuts, have several grain sensitivities, don't eat much soy and don't regularly eat meat, cheese has been a main source of protein for many of my meals. To not have cheese be the main part of at least several meals each week, I am going to have to do a lot of research and planning. I will need to figure out plant-based sources of calcium and find some vegan-friendly recipes that are kid and husband friendly as well. Hmmmm. I am definitely taking suggestions if you have any to share!
Part of me hopes that reducing my dairy intake will improve my asthma, but the part of me that really loves cheese and ice cream sort of hopes it won't.... However, either way I plan on eating meat and dairy in smaller amounts and making the majority of my diet fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. I am sure that once this change becomes incorporated as a way of life, it will be easy, but I am anticipating a transition period that will be pretty difficult. I do know that I will need to do a lot more forethought and planning into my meals and snacks! Pin It Now!