Are Your Words Green but Your Food Fleshy?

For some, environmental consciousness goes beyond being trendy. For instance, many religions include calls to be responsible with the environment. It is trend born of consequence: we breathe the same air, and we all need water.  Yet, more and more, our food may come from thousands of miles away, making resource management a huge issue. Production of life’s necessities (or life’s not so necessities) leaves a deep impact on the environment.

Despite this so-called consciousness, actions and environmental behavior do not always align, as reflected in a recent study of Jordanian college students. The study concluded the students were ”generally concerned about the environment… However, this pro-environmental attitude was not sufficient to turn good intentions into actual actions.”

This concern/action divide is not unique to our Jordanian brothers and sisters. While consumer trends may suggest there is improvement, there still remains one very common inconsistency – what the more blunt among us would call “hypocrisy”.

Fortunately, vegetarianism will soften the blow.

What if I told you that a plant-based diet used significantly less water? This should not be surprising, logically speaking. Crops = land + water + energy. Animal derived products = land + water + energy + crops. It’s obvious, then, grass fed, organic beef will require more energy than an organic pinto bean.

You say you’re an environmentalist, so why aren’t you a vegetarian? Are social pressures keeping you from reaching your potential as an environmentally responsible citizen of the world? Are you afraid to be associated with a bunch of crazy PETA people, or are you in the trap of thinking that going one step further – vegan – is too extreme?

Another source of hesitation is that of health. Relax. You’ll be fine nutritionally; you’ll get plenty of protein. Just remember to take a B12 supplement or to eat foods fortified with it. Courtesy of modern technology, we do not need to rely on animals to get that vitamin. All other nutritional needs can be met through plant-based sources.

I think, as a generation, we can walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. We are our actions more than you are our words. We are also what we eat. To be responsible citizens, we need to use our resources in low-impact ways, especially because there are a lot of us. The best way to do this is through a vegetarian diet. This is one small way that we can be known as “the great generation” by being “the green generation.”

Have you checked your ecological footprint yet?

Christine Slocum I am an imperfect person (though I prefer "work in progress"). In 25 years I have managed to become a graduate student in sociology, a Unitarian Universalist, vegan, social activist and the wife of my best friend. Originally from Syracuse, NY, I now live in Seattle, WA with aforementioned best friend and two dog-like cats.

View all posts by Christine Slocum

4 Responses to “Are Your Words Green but Your Food Fleshy?”

  1. Mark

    I personally see being environmentally conscious as a balancing act. You can’t do it all, so pick and choose what makes sense for you. I don’t think you have to necessarily be a vegetarian to ‘walk the walk’

    When I read: “You say you’re an environmentalist, so why aren’t you a vegetarian?”

    I saw a fill in the blank: “You say you’re an environmentalist, so why aren’t you __________”

    - making your own laundry detergent?
    - boycotting the internet for it’s huge amount of energy use?
    - saving cereal bags to use as wax paper?
    - composting your ‘personal’ waste?

    At any rate, good point, our society certainly should cut back on meat.

  2. Jessi Stafford

    It’s definitely a downward spiral into dementia trying to keep up with everything a good environmentalist is supposed to do. Every day I find a new thing I despise for the world but it’s very difficult when you’re young and broke to be completely self sufficient, partly due to my own will-power. Yes, I’m a vegan, but that’s also largely due to distate for animal cruelty. I try to compost, I try to recycle, I also tried giving up soap. So I agree, you can’t really make the blanket statement of judging an absolute model for being an environmentalist. I whole-heartedly agree the world should give up meat/dairy – but at the same time, all that soy we consume to replace animal products, well, it’s genetically modified and destroying the environment and biodiversity to boot – so, there can’t be an evangelical right or wrong to environmentalism. It’s just a goal to strive for. If you fail, there should be a welcoming community to say, it’s ok, keep going, we’ll get there together, not “You’re doing it wrong.”

    • Christine Slocum

      Hi Jessi, thanks for your thoughts!

      There are constraints to being an environmentalist. I am not in a position to compost, because of my apartment living and landlord’s unwillingness to subscribe to the municipal composting, for instance. One of the reasons I went vegan was because I was trying to save money back in the day. So I hear you on the broke thing.

      I agree that maybe there should not be an absolute standard, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t encourage people to strive to a minimum standard. There is a line between saying, “Oh, that’s OK, at least you’re trying” too frequently that “trying” fails to accomplish much. I’m not really talking to vegetarians who slip up here or there, but the people who don’t see every day consumption as a key part of environmentalism, or at least who try to convince themselves it doesn’t have to be.

  3. Christine Slocum

    Hi Mark, thanks for your thoughts!

    I agree that blanket statements can be dangerous. And that being environmentally conscious is certainly a balancing act. I would argue that acts of substitution (eat beans, not cows) are easier than acts of addition (for instance, making your own laundry detergent would be) or acts of reduction (boycotting the internet, for example). If it would take the same amount of time and energy, and by energy I mean energy of a person to do, than I think it is a fair question.


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