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

I know most resolutions begin with the new year, but lately I have been feeling the need to make some changes in my life. I am already, for the most part, a fairly responsible person when it comes to my environmental impact (or I at least try to be!). I try to make sustainable choices whenever possible, and I do fairly well, but I feel that I still have a long way to go. I still buy non-local packaged foods (especially now with a new baby), I still drive a car, and I still have trips to Target where I buy new plastic things that have probably been shipped from China. I know I am far from perfect, and while I don't ever expect to reach perfection, I think there is definitely some room for improvement.
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!


  1. good for you- great list- I have been working on eating more raw foods lately- every since we came back from our trip.
    We are really into cheese and I would not give that up but I try and eat very little meat in general- I have also taken to bringing my own 'to go' containers when we eat out and I anticipate left overs- even a jar is great for kids meals that are left unfinished- and same with reusable bags I just leave containers in my car- Unfortunately we live in an area where driving a car is necessary.

  2. We're considering dairy-free for a bit, too. My husband (who also has asthma) recently tested positive for a dairy allergy. We're preparing for a 4-week dairy free trial period by baking and freezing our normal baked goods, but with soy milk and Earth Balance.

    We also tried our favorite homemade ice cream recipe, just subbing a can of full fat coconut milk for the 2 cups of cream, and a cup each of soy and almond milk for the 2 cups of milk. It came out really well (better than we expected, really), so I'll try to post the recipe soon.

    I don't really think I need dairy to get enough protein in my vegetarian diet, but since I'm entering the last few weeks of pregnancy, and I've been eating dairy so far, I probably won't eliminate it entirely, but I'll keep the cheese at work so I don't tempt him.

    I may join him in the dairy-free after baby arrives, since I've heard that for some breastfeeding mamas, dairy consumption (by the mother) can be a cause of colic in the infant.

  3. Great plan!
    I think the bravest thing is to put the plan to reduce your consumption of 'stuff' in December, when all Christmas sales and buy gifts in bulk packs are everywhere and every shop and internet site is trying to convince you that you need another thing from them!
    This list actually is inspiring. I might have to make one for myself as well. Or at least, I will take this thing on to my December plans!