Friday, October 17, 2008

Is the 160.93 km Vegan Diet Possible?

from Diet for a Small Planet "Lentils Monastery Style"

Something I've been struggling with is my vegan lifestyle and the importance of the environment. Where do these two meet?

Certainly I know, and this has come into the media light recently, that a plant based diet has a less damaging environmental impact than the industrial production of meat (it even sounds less invasive doesn't it?).

"Roughly one-fifth of the world's land is used for grazing. That's twice the area used for growing crops."

"Feedlots cause water pollution. Nearly 21 per cent of the average Canadian's contribution to common water pollution is caused by meat consumption from high-density farms."

My concern for both animals and the planet does come out of an emotional response to seeing animals suffering and seeing the beauty of a town (namely the one I grew up in) destroyed by one company's pulp mill and oil refinery. While my choice to become vegan wasn't for environmental reasons, it does fit with how I try to live my life day to day.

The popularity of the 100 mile diet did make me more aware of where my food was coming from. This had both a positive and negative effect on me. I thought about how far my food was travelling (mostly in kilometers though since I tend to think in kms). Shopping at farmers' markets, as I had been doing, indicated that I was part of a change in our society to be aware of where our food comes from. My receipt for the delivery box of fresh produce charts the kms my food has travelled to reach me. But what about my tofu? My rice? My uh-oh indulgence in avocadoes? What about quinoa? Decaf organic tea? There's nothing local about these. Oh wait, my almond milk?! My daily foods come from all over North America. Who knows how much production and travel went into getting those products to my kitchen cupboards?

Last winter I made a concerted effort to stick with the seaonable foods. Apples, apples, apples and more apples. Lots of apple cider, juice and every variety of apple grown within 200 kms probably went through my kitchen. When the season changed and new fruits became available, the apples were no longer on my list and I've been holding off as long as possible because I know it will be weeks and weeks of apples (I promise to get more creative with them this winter).

100 mile dieters are omnivores and for me I don't see me getting enough in my diet by eating within 160.93 kms from my house.

I guess the questions for me are am I being conscious enough every time I shop and could I make more of an effort to find local sources of foods that will offer a healthy and varied vegan diet?

The pears are finishing and apple season is upon us. This weekend is the apple festival at UBC.
I don't think I'll be going (mainly because it's a long bus and skytrain hike from whoville to UBC.) but I will hopefully make another trip to the farmers' market to find out what's in season.


mister anchovy said...

I like the idea of eating locally grown food, just as I like the idea of buying locally made products. It's a real challenge to try to do both of those things all the time, though, isn't it? I'm an omnivore, and I don't think I could do it in any strict sense. Well, let me rephrase, we can all do all kinds of things we don't want to do, when circumstances limit our choices.

All that said, I look for locally grown produce and buy it when I can. I'd love to find a local organic farmer from whom I could regularly get good veggies. I was in a local supermarket last summer who were trying to sell USA packaged up corn cobs in the height of Ontario corn season. I found the produce manager and asked him what kind of narcotics he was on. The response I got was that it was a corporate decision. Mind you, this is the same outfit that insists on packaging up mushrooms in plastic. That makes me crazy.

Captain Karen said...

I hadn't actually thought of a vegan diet in terms of the 100mile diet. That's very interesting. As you point out, omnivore's would have it much easier - unless of course you grew your own soybeans and then made your own tofu or soy milk out of them but that's not very realistic. And we're not really a hotbed of nutgrowing are we? I think if you're trying to get most of your vegetables, grains, etc "locally" and then have to go further afield for a small portion of what you eat, that isn't too bad. I think in some climates the 160.93km vegan diet is possible, especially the closer to the equator you get. As for those of us in the more northern climates...a bit more difficult. Is there any solution that will be ethical, environmentally friendly and healthy? Or do we have to choose two out of the three and hope for the best? Interesting dilemma. I'm curious to hear what some other vegans have to say on this.

Great post! I'll link to it later today.

Wandering Coyote said...

I should really get the book because my big question is - how do we eat through the winter up here? I guess we are supposed to can our local bounty or freeze it or whatever, but at this point in time I'm not sure that's feasible for me at least - and the farther away from the civilized world we get, the harder the 100 mile restriction becomes to adhere to. We don't even have a farmer's market most of the year - and when we do, it's so expensive I can't afford to shop there!

Wandering Coyote said...

Incidentally, do you have a vegan cheesecake recipe you can email me? I have a friend who can't have dairy. I seem to recall seeing one posted here but can't remember when it was...Thanks!

Jeni Treehugger said...

Oh this is a fab blog!
Veganism for me wasn't about the environment and BOY was I delighted to see that two of my great passions (veganism and the environment) slotted together so nicely.

sp said...

WC I do have the cheesecake recipe. I'll forward when I find it.

Vegan Run Amok said...

Without opening a huge philosophical can of worms, I'll just say that I'm a vegan first and an environmentalist second, but that if were possible to follow a vegan 100 mile diet here without having to grow (and can, ugh!) all my own food, I probably would. I think. Maybe.

There's a teeny tiny farmers market here now and I'm hoping it will grow. But even there, I don't know, can you always believe it when local growers say they don't use pesticides? And what if it's actually better for the environment as a whole to buy shipped in organic lettuce than locally produced but sprayed lettuce? And isn't a good thing to support with my grocery dollars conversion of cropland from conventional to organic in exporting regions like Central America where not only are the pesticides used on conventionally grown bananas and other crops killing the coral reefs but where workers suffer all kinds of health problems as the result of using backpack sprayers? I don't know, it doesn't seem like a straightforward issue to me although maybe I just don't have enough information.