5 Simple Ways To Be Kinder To The Earth

(photo by Kyle Ellefson)

So the earth is dying and all that. And we supposedly have to save it.

I feel like being eco-friendly is one of those things we all kinda know we should be doing, but often fall short on. I know. It's hard. I feel ya. Flipping your whole lifestyle around in order to be more environmentally friendly is an overwhelming task, but don't forget that every little bit helps. Little steps matter too. It doesn't all have to be that difficult.
So I've complied some easy (and I mean really easy) ways to help make our planet a little healthier every day.
So. No excuses. 

1. Plant trees while surfing the web
Ecosia is an free online search engine that uses your searches to bring some more green into the world. They use 80% of their profits made from ad revenue and use that money to plant trees. (It takes about 44 searches to plant one tree on average.) This one is ridiculously easy to do, because I know you're already googling things daily. So make an account, set it as your default search engine, and plant some trees! It's fun to see how many you've helped plant over time.

2. Thrift
Not only is thrifting cheaper, but it's more eco-friendly than buying new clothing. There's numerous issues with the fast fashion industry, from fueling consumeristic culture, to the immense amount of air and water pollution is produces. And, let me tell ya, bleached, dyed, and chemically soaked textiles do not break down quickly in the earth. (Nor are they good for the soil.)
Fast fashion has taken our culture by storm, but the negative effect is slowly becoming detrimental.
There's a stellar documentary about not just the environmental, but socioeconomic and consumeristic effect of it as well. It's called The True Cost, check it out on Netflix!
Though it may not seem like it, thrift shopping for clothes can make a huge difference. And I gotta be honest, I have found some pretty CUTE stuff at Goodwill.

3. Consider composting 
About half the stuff we throw into the trash is actually compostable. From fruit peels to coffee grounds, eggshells to egg cartons. Instead of letting all those organic materials end up in a landfill, put them to good use! It doesn't It can be done indoors with a small container, or with a full sized garbage can in your backyard. It all depends on your specific situation. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to get started.

4.  Mind your plastic
Being that it's so cheap to produce, plastic is used in so many common household items. But it's also one of the biggest polluters. And that can make the task of reducing your plastic waste even more overwhelming. So here's some small steps you can take. Here's some plastic items you can easily replace:
- Toothbrushes. Try a bamboo toothbrush instead of the standard plastic ones. They're still disposable, but the bamboo breaks down easily in the soil. No soil pollution! 
- Plastic wrap. Plastic wrap is literally the most frustrating thing to use, I'm honestly not sure why reusable wraps haven't caught on sooner. It's the only product I can think of that everyone still uses, despite it working only half the time. But, huzzah, there's alternatives! These are made sustainably from beeswax. The warmth from your hands makes the wrap slightly sticky and, therefore, easy to use. They're reusable, but if you ever feel the need to toss them, they're biodegradable and compostable! Win win. 
- Water bottles. If you drink water on the regular, consider investing in a portable water bottle,  instead of consuming disposable plastic ones. Just make sure you get either a glass or stainless steel one. Many reusable plastic water bottles can contain BPA, or break down quickly when washed. And, it's just one more thing made with plastic.
- K-Cups. Okay, I know they're super handy, but they also generate a ton of waste, especially if you drink coffee daily. So just put your own grounds in a reusable one and drink up.
- Grocery Bags. This is probably the worst one on the list. Plastic grocery bags produce a massive amount of waste, and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. The numbers on their production and waste is staggering (see chart below!) And even if you're reusing them, they still eventually end up in a landfill. So invest in a canvas tote bag to pack your groceries. Or you could try making your own bags easily from old t-shirts!  The earth will thank you. And don't just stop with the grocery bags, reusable produce bags are handy too. Or, hey, just stick the produce straight in your cart! The avocados won't mind.

And, holy moly, if those numbers don't make you feel a little nauseous....

(photo by Hermes Rivera)

5. Recycle!
Essentially, all these tips are some form of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", the infamous phrase that's been around since the seventies. It became the mantra of a generation. I mean, I remember it being pounded into my head from educational TV shows at a young age. (Anyone else remember that Magic School Bus episode about recycling?)
But it still rings true today, which is pretty cool to think about. meaningful. Reducing our waste should be first priority, cutting out things in areas that they're unnecessary. Then, what can't be reduced, we try to reuse, or upcycle, the things already around us. And, finally, we recycle. Pretty simple. And it all makes a difference.
And, somehow, that phrase doesn't seem quite as corny as it did when I was a kid.

Thanks for reading! Go hug a tree or something.



A Case Against Veganism

(photo by Jez Timms)

Meat has slowly become more demonized over the previous century, but lately it seems as if it's taken a turn for the worse. It's not just red meat that's a killer, but eggs, milk, and pretty much anything else that comes from animals.
And while I believe most vegans "activists" are well-intentioned in their motives, I think there's just a lot that they're missing.

So here's my 3 key reasons why veganism and plant-based diets don't bring all the benefits they claim to:

1. It isn't better for you

Traditional cultures have never chosen veganism
It's important to note that a completely plant-based diet has never been the first choice for any traditional culture. If animal fat is so detrimental to human health, then how do the Inuits maintain near perfect health while eating a diet that mainly consists of meat? Living in the Arctic, they rarely touched a vegetable. Not a whole lot of veggies grow in sub-zero temperatures. So they thrived off meat and animal fat, having diets that were very high in fat and protein. And they still managed to have better health than most Americans, diabetes and heart disease were not at all common.
Traditional cultures have always depended on animals products to sustain good health and basic survival.

Nutrient deficiencies
Some nutrients can only be found in animal products, whether it's Vitamin A from liver and egg yolks, or essential fatty-acids in fish. And maybe you've heard buzz surrounding Vitamin B12 before. (commonly found in fish, beef, cheese etc,) It that can only be found in animal products, therefore most vegans have to take it in some form of a supplement. Because B12 deficiency can be quite dangerous.
And since other nutrients such a calcium and iron tend to be lower in plant-based diets, it's not surprising that nutrient deficiencies are a real issue when it comes to plant-based diets. (1) (2)
Essentially, it's nearly impossible to have an optimal diet as a vegan, unless you're taking supplements.
Lierre Keith was a vegan for 20 years, and is now an outspoken critic of the lifestyle. After years of abstaining from animal products, she found herself with deep-rooted nutritional issues, and eventually gave up the diet that was making her miserable. She now writes and speaks about environmentalism and the downfalls of the vegan diet. You can check out her stuff here!
Denise Minger is another "ex-vegan" who had to revert back to consuming animal products because of the intense health issues it was causing her. And despite receiving a load of backlash, she did it for her body and her health.
And she's not the only one. People who revert back to a traditional diet after coming down with health issues from plant-based eating aren't that uncommon.

Another large issue with vegan diets is that they're often supplemented with large amounts of soy. Soy is one of the most popular (mainly because it's cheap to produce, and it can me mashed and mangled to resemble just about anything) replacements for substitute meat products. But it goes far beyond that. Tofu, soy milk, soy made into bacon, cheese, cereal, snacks, burgers... the list goes on.
I talk a bit more about the downfalls of soy here, but, in short, it's a endocrine disruptor that can wreak havoc on hormone balance, not to mention that the vast majority of soy produced is genetically modified. Just not good all around.

2. It isn't better for animals

It's interesting to me how quickly Western culture has shifted into this mindset that adopting a plant-based lifestyle is the most ethical and healthy way to navigate through life. It feels like it almost snuck up on me.
Now don't get me wrong, a call to ethical animal consumption is not my promotion for eating a Big Mac for lunch. Factory farming disgusts me as much as it does vegans. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) are one of the sad results of a highly industrialized society. But not every burger can be traced back to a cramped feed lot. Ethical meat eating is not an oxymoronic phrase.
There's no such thing as a "Do No Harm" lifestyle. Harm is inevitable and death is imminent. We can try to minimize our impact, but something must die in order for us to live. Whether it's directly or indirectly. Craig Fear, a Nutritional Therapist, says it best in my opinion:
“Meat is murder” is the battle cry of many vegetarians. But I see more murder in the plastic wrapped, genetically-modified, chemical-sprayed tofu burger than I do in my local grass-fed burger. How many animals had to die for that soybean field to be planted?  I could say the same in just about every plant-based food in supermarkets which destroys the diversity in ecosystems to grow crops unsustainably.
But, of course, we're human. Death isn't fun. It doesn't bring me joy to know that another living creature had to die in order for me to consume a burger. But death is just as much a part of life as living is. Its the quintessential circle of life.
A couple summers ago, I watched our backyard chickens get beheaded for the first time. And it wasn't fun. It was sad. But it was also important. To take part in, to see and experience something that so many of us in the West have become deeply disconnected from: knowing where our food comes from. The killing and consumption of animals is not the disregard of them. In fact, I've found that the people who respect animals most are the very ones taking their lives.
And I would challenge any vegan to see if they could meet with a local, sustainable farmer in their area. Go to a farmer's market. Ask how their cows and chickens and pigs are treated. See how they gather their chicken eggs, see how they milk goats and cows, and still see if they have any moral qualms with having eggs for breakfast. It's a far cry from those awful undercover CAFO videos we've all seen on YouTube. And farms like this are just the most beautiful thing to me.

3. It isn't better for the earth

So, contrary to what many vegan activists proclaim, animal farming is not single-handedly killing the earth. Industrialized animal farming is definitely negatively affecting our earth's atmosphere, but so is any sort of industrial farming. Including the miles of soybean fields we see a sad result of the monoculture that's taken over.
Factory farming is unnecessarily harming animals and harming the earth. Anyone can see that; it's hard to deny. But CAFO's and sustainable cattle farms are two completely different things.  When vegans complain that animal farming is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, they're not really taking into account the smaller, sustainable farms. From this article:
the studies show only that the prevailing methods of producing meat — that is, crowding animals together in factory farms, storing their waste in giant lagoons and cutting down forests to grow crops to feed them — cause substantial greenhouse gases. It could be, in fact, that a conscientious meat eater may have a more environmentally friendly diet than your average vegetarian.
(I'd suggest reading the entire article, as it goes more into detail on industrial farming and the impact it's had on the environment.) But what's the answer then? Sustainable farms it seems. Cows eating grass, not grain, like they're designed to. Not a thousand plus cows stuffed in a feedlot, just waiting to be butchered. Because many of these greenhouse gases aren't simply a direct result of the animals and manure themselves, but the large fields of soy and corn we're growing in order to feed those animals in the first place. And it can be done, and it's the only way it's been done until factory farming took off in the 20th century. Even the EPA admits:
Before the 1970s, methane emissions from manure were minimal because the majority of livestock farms in the U.S. were small operations where animals deposited manure in pastures and corrals.
Sustainable omnivorism isn't only ethical, but necessary. Maybe that means we eat less meat (quality over quantity) but I believe that's just one step closer to a healthier us and a healthier planet.

Maybe I convinced you, maybe I didn't

But that doesn't really matter. Because my my desire for this article isn't to convince you to eat meat. It's really not. That's not my place nor my intent. I just want everyone to be healthy (as corny-world-peace-miss-america as that sounds) And I think responsible animal/animal product consumption is a large part of that.
But above all that, I hope to educate, and to encourage you to educate yourself.  Don't take my word for it.

Also, I'd like to just say that if you're a vegan, and can't just bring yourself to eating animal products (for ethical reasons, or other) I'd suggest reading an article by Denise Minger (previously mentioned former vegan). It's about how to achieve optimal health if you insist on keeping a plant-based diet. It's beautifully unbiased. You can check it out here!

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