top of page

Your Diet & The Planet: Do You Have to Be Vegan to Be Sustainable?

Do You Have To Be Vegan To Be Sustainable? How you can eat sustainably no matter what your diet is

Do you have to be vegan to be eco-friendly?

This is a question I hear a lot from people so today we're going to dig into it. As per my usual style, I'll share the facts & the realities of keeping the planet in mind when it comes to what we put on our plate.

Before we dive into what the most eco friendly diet is, I want to make one thing clear: I'm not here to tell you what to eat or how to live your life. I'm here to provide information and inspiration so you can make your own decisions.

As a millennial woman who grew up in the era of diet culture and fat shaming, I understand the sensitivity and emotional attachment we have to food. It's taken me a long time to heal my own relationship with food and diet to look at it as a source of power & nourishment as opposed to something to control. So, with that in mind I just wanted to reiterate that your food choices are your own and to approach this topic with empathy and understanding.

The truth is, what we eat and how we produce our food has a significant effect on the environment. From the type of food we consume to how we dispose of it, our daily food choices can either contribute to or combat climate change. In fact, in Project Drawdown's list of the 20 most impactful actions individuals can take to reduce emissions worldwide, eating plant based and reducing food waste takes the #1 and #2 spot.

So we know that a while a plant-based diet is in fact the most sustainable option, it may not be achievable or desirable for everyone. And that's okay! The goal is to make conscious choices that align with your values and have a positive impact on the planet.

So, do you have to be vegan to be eco-friendly? The short answer is no. While a vegan diet is the most sustainable diet, there are other ways to reduce your carbon footprint and make a difference. Let's explore some realistic solutions that anyone can adopt, regardless of their dietary preferences.

Solution 1: Eat More Plants, Less Meat

It's no secret that eating more plants and less meat is one of the most impactful actions we can take to combat climate change. The production and consumption of meat, especially at the scale we see today, contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.

While going 100% plant-based may not be feasible for everyone, reducing your meat intake can still make a significant difference. Start by incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet or try dedicating one day a week or even one meal like breakfast to eating plant based. This way you can put less pressure on yourself to go fully vegan 24/7 and you'll get to have fun exploring new recipes and discover the delicious variety of plant-based options available. Who knows- you might even find that you love eating this way and do it more often. And if you still love indulging in a favorite meat dish every now and then, that's OK! By eating even 2-3x days a week plant based you're still making a huge difference.

Solution 2: Choose Sustainable Meat and Seafood

If you do choose to eat meat or seafood, it's crucial to think about where they come from because there are options that are more or less sustainable. A great rule of thumb is - if it's cheap then it's probably not ethical or sustainable. Look for locally sourced, free-range, organic and grass-fed meat options and support local farmers who prioritize sustainable and regenerative practices. By doing so, you not only reduce your carbon footprint but also support ethical and responsible farming methods. This can certainly be more expensive but the good news is that it's not only better for the planet but also significantly better for your body than the standard meat options full of antibiotics, fillers, dyes, and preservatives. Also if you focus on consuming less meat overall you can still afford the high quality nutrient dense meat that comes from grass fed farms.

When it comes to seafood, the situation is a bit trickier. Overfishing and industrialized fishing practices are a huge threat to our oceans. So definitely limit your seafood consumption unless you know exactly where it came from. Seek out locally caught fish instead and educate yourself on sustainable seafood options. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch List is a fantastic resource that provides information on the best choices for sustainable seafood.

Solution 3: Reduce Food Waste

Food waste is a significant issue that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and resource depletion. In the United States alone, about 40% of our total food supply is thrown away. By reducing food waste, we can minimize the need for land clearance and decrease the strain on resources.

Start by practicing better meal planning. Take stock of what you already have in your fridge and pantry before creating your meal plan. Use up ingredients that are close to expiration or leftovers from previous meals. Get creative with recipes that utilize the entire plant, reducing waste and maximizing nutrition. I love Plant You and the Zero Waste Chef for delicious & creative low waste recipes.

Composting is another effective way to reduce food waste. If your community offers composting services, take advantage of them. If not, consider starting your own compost pile or finding local initiatives that accept food waste for composting. By diverting food waste from landfills, you help reduce methane emissions and create valuable fertilizer for regenerative farming practices.

My approach:

I have been a vegetarian / sometimes Pescatarian fro over 12 years now and have experimented many times with going fully vegan. Today I have a really good balance with what I eat and I eat 90% plant based with a few exceptions. I still do not eat any meat because for me it is a choice of values and ethics. I just love animals and I don't feel comfortable consuming them no matter how ethically they were raised. I also do not eat much seafood simply because it's really hard to find sustainable choices. However if I am in a place where I know the seafood is caught locally, like some places in Hawaii and around the bay area for example, I will sometimes indulge. I love doing this in Hawaii because it's such an ingrained part of the culture and experience there. I'll also sometimes indulge in dairy by eating pastries, pizza, pasta, or a cheeseboard with wine when the occasion calls for it. When I do indulge in this I try to ensure it is ethical, organic, and local as well. To me, these foods are part of the joy of life and a point of celebration and enjoyment with people I love. But the thing is I do not make these foods part of my everyday life. In my day to day I actually really enjoy eating 100% plant based because I genuinely love the food and how it makes me feel. So, that is what works for me and I hope that you can find the right balance that works for you too. Some people do feel better eating meat, I'm not one of those people. If that's you try to find ways to consume this sustainably and in less quantity.

Remember, perfection is not the goal. Making small changes and being mindful of your choices can have a significant impact over time. Embrace a balanced approach that aligns with your values and allows you to enjoy the foods you love while still making a positive difference. So, do you have to be vegan to be eco-friendly? No, but it's about making conscious choices and finding what works best for you. While a plant-based diet is the most sustainable option, there are various ways to reduce your carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the planet. By eating more plants, choosing sustainable meat and seafood, and reducing food waste, you can contribute to a healthier and more sustainable future.

Let's focus on progress, not perfection, and together, we can create a more sustainable world, one meal at a time.


bottom of page