My identity consists of many different but overlapping sub-identities. Some were given to me — Jewish, female, etc. — and some I’ve chosen. Four months ago, I chose a new one for myself: Vegan.
My veganism has already become a defining part of me and is based on one of my core values: Saving the environment. Adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or even semi-vegetarian diet is the best way to take personal action to save the environment. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than every transportation system combined. The livestock industry is responsible for 65% of human-produced nitrous-oxide—a chemical that has 300 times the global warming potential as CO2—and 67% of the total human-generated methane, which is 23 times as warming as CO2. In fact, one study shows that if the entire world ate beans instead of beef, our climate problems would be entirely solved. Kind of crazy, right!?
I went vegetarian in March of last year, mainly because it is a fairly common choice among my peers. As I continued my research, I realized eating meat was not worth its detrimental environmental impact. Although I was vegetarian, supporting animal agriculture through consuming eggs and dairy also ate away at my conscious; I knew it was wrong. The guilt I felt was immeasurable, and I went vegan in October, in pursuit of what I call a “guilt-free diet.” Now, I can’t imagine not being vegan. Every day I am thankful that my life led me to this amazing cause, and subsequently, the immense passion I have for it. I recognize that for many, however, my lifestyle simply isn’t an option.
Veganism is hard to uphold, mainly because of issues related to accessibility. For American families living in poverty, fast food—comprised of cheap animal products—is often the only affordable option. I’m extremely grateful that I’m able to maintain a vegan lifestyle, but I also recognize that it’s a privilege.
I have parents who are willing to change their habits and lifestyle to accommodate mine. I have the time and money to experiment with new foods and meat alternatives. I also have access to grocery stores, and money to buy groceries and, because of all this, I can be vegan. I can help save the world in this way, but I also have a responsibility to do so.
I have the means, the passion, and the determination to be vegan. Therefore, I must be. I must be for all the people who don’t have the same opportunities as I, those who can’t alter their lives, like I can, to help the planet. The fact that not everyone can be vegan makes it even more vital I continue my veganism; and, it makes it even more vital that people like me, with similar privilege and power, take real steps to decrease their carbon footprint.
Let’s use the audience of this blog post as an example. To read this post, you must have access to a phone or computer, which already presents a certain level of privilege. In addition, you must have some free time; time not spent earning money to provide for yourself. I can comfortably say that if you’re reading this right now, you probably have the ability to shift your diet in some way. Maybe try “meatless Monday,” or eat onlyone meat meal per day. Try cutting out red meat, fish, or chicken. You can even help with a simple swap to a non-dairy milk option like soy or almond. No effort is too small!
I recognize that adopting a vegan diet isn’t easy for many reasons—time, cost, accessibility, nutrition, allergies—but I’m here to say it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. By implementing small changes to your diet, like the ones I just mentioned, you can help our planet. Earth has given us so much, yet we give her so little in return. We abuse her and we disrespect the living beings with whom we coexist. You have the power to change this. You have a responsibility to change this.
There are infinite ways to make your diet better for the planet, and I’d like to help you make some of those changes! To let you in on a secret, sometimes it’s really fun! I run a food account on Instagram under the name @plantbasedlila. I began the account to show people the realities of a vegan diet. Yes, I do get protein in my diet and, no, I don’t only eat salad. My posts are meant to debunk prevalent myths surrounding veganism/vegetarianism. I don’t expect every person reading this to become vegan immediately. My goal is for everyone to make one sustainable choice in the near future, whether it’s a pescatarian diet, one vegetarian meal, or even just a soy latte instead of regular latte.
Do what you can, because you can.
The Jewish Women’s Archive’s Rising Voices Fellowship will be honored as Teen Voices’ ’21 Leader for the 21st Century’ on May 6th, 2019. It is a 10-month program for female-identified teens in high-school who have a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism, gender and social justice. The Jewish Women’s Archive is a national non?profit devoted to documenting Jewish women’s stories, elevating their voices, and inspiring them to be agents of change. Founded in 1995, JWA is the world’s largest source of material about and voices of Jewish women.