Celebrate Earth Day — Go Vegan
In January of 2017, I changed my diet to one filled with beans, rice, and a heck of a lot of vegetables — I became a vegan. My motivation was the growing concerns of the environmental health of our planet.
There are 7 billion people on Earth and what we chose to eat and how we produce that food have an impact. There are many social, political, economic, and cultural variables that make this complicated and to simplify it, our environmental impact is something worth understanding because our lives have a stake in it.
Many people who care about cutting down their carbon footprint often recycle, take shorter showers, turn off their lights when they leave a room. That's great! Don't stop doing that but have you ever been curious if that is the most effective way to minimize your impact?
Did you know that the agricultural industry produces 14.5% of global CO2 emissions?
This is more emissions than the entire world transportation sector combined according to the United Nations. Think trains, planes and automobiles... agriculture equates to more than that.
Livestock amounts to 53% of nitrous oxide, 44% of methane gas, and 5% of carbon dioxide released into our atmosphere. And nitrous oxide has 296X more global warming power than carbon dioxide according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
70% of the US arable land is used to grow crops for animals and not humans. I repeat that is land used to feed what feeds us. What is going to happen when we need that land for our growing population?
I started asking myself a hard question — I say I care about the state of our environment, but am I really doing enough to help save it? For me, the answer was no. So I ditched the meat and cheese and became a vegan.
I am not necessarily advocating that you become one too. What works well for my body may not work well for your body, but I do think that everyone could benefit from eating more plants! So let's do something nice for your body and for the Earth and join me by going vegan for Earth Day, Sunday April 22, 2018. That's right — one day!
According to the "vegan calculator", being vegan for one day means we are saving:
- 1100 Gallons of water
- 30 Square Feet of forest
- 20 pounds of CO2
- 40 pounds of grain
- 1 animal life
For the 47 of you who decided you'd go vegan with me on Earth Day, YOU ARE AMAZING. That also means that collectively — I'm including myself in these numbers — we are saving 52,800 gallons of water, 1,440 sq. ft. of forest, 960 lbs. of CO2, 1,920 lbs. of grain and 48 animals. Go us!
Below are a few recipes and suggestions to help get you through the day. You don't have to follow any of this content verbatim, but if you're struggling on where to start, look below.
Milk — Any nut milk (almond, cashew, pistachio, brazil) or soy milk
Butter — Olive Oil or Coconut Oil (I don't recommend coconut oil for cooking for it has a low smoke point)
Cheese — Skip it for the day if you don't feel like buying a new product; but if you're curious about trying a dairy-free cheese, my personal favorites are Treeline, Kite Hill, and Leaf Cuisine. These are not at all sponsored (no one pays me for that). I simply like the taste and the fact that the ingredients are clean.
Red Meat/Chicken/Seafood — If you tell people you're vegan (even if it's only for a day), your mom and third cousin are going to be worried about your protein intake. Under the assumption that you're eating a normal 1,500 or more calorie/day diet, no one in recorded history has had a protein deficiency. You'll be fine. Avoid animal protein simply for the day (yes, this includes eggs). You can eat tofu, but I actually prefer beans. I eat at least a can of beans a day. Do whichever you prefer! You could even pick up veggie burgers at the store.
Going Out to Eat:
Eating out can be tough as a vegan, but then again, you'd be really surprised. Here is a very brief and quick list of some places that you can stop to eat if you don't feel like going to the grocery store for Earth Day eats.
Boston — DigInn, Veggie Galaxy, Taco Party, Life Alive Cafe, Jugos
Austin — The list is so freaking long for Austin... but my favorites are The Beer Plant, Arlo's, Tarka, The Vegan Nom, Casa De Luz, Counter Culture... seriously everywhere in Austin is veggie friendly.
For those everywhere — Chiptole and Whole Foods "Food Court" are my go-to's in cities that I don't know what I'm dealing with, but you'd be surprised where you can find plants (that's not a plain garden salad). One trick I've employed on my quest for vegan food while out to eat: ethnic cuisine tends to be more plant-based than the standard American diet. Avoid pubs or BBQ joints today unless you only want french fries. Try your town/city's new Mediterranean or Mexican restaurant instead.
For the base, throw any fruit you have in your fridge in the blender. For this I used:
- frozen mango
- frozen pineapples
- 1/2 cup oats
- protein powder (be sure not to use whey protein today... sub out for a plant protein. I like Ora Organic or Vega).
- almond milk
Pour that smoothie into a bowl and top it with WHATEVER you want. I typically use any fresh fruit in my fridge and nuts/seeds for healthy fat and protein. Above I used strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds, hemp hearts, cocoa nibs, walnuts, almond butter.
Banana Quinoa Porridge:
For my friends up in the Northeast who are still dealing with cold weather, this recipe is for you. As much as I love a good smoothie in the morning because it's fast, easy, and portable, I avoid smoothies in the winter. That's because the body doesn't love cold foods when it is also cold out. According to Ayurvedic medicine, the body has a harder time digesting it during those months. Now I realize it's spring according to the Farmer's Almanac, but I was in Boston yesterday and it was 30 degrees so if Sunday is anything like that, warm food for you!
Above I have quinoa porridge. Yes, I'm sure you're thinking quinoa is a lunch/dinner food, but you can also make it for breakfast. Cook quinoa like you would normally — on a stove with warm water — and when the quinoa starts absorbing the water, add a mashed banana. This gives it the consistency of oatmeal and you have a warm, healthy treat. Top your porridge with anything you like. In the photo above, I have strawberries, almonds, chia seeds, and granola. Enjoy!
If you have the time, you owe it to yourself to make homemade falafel. It feels a little bit classier than a can of beans, but you're still getting your protein and you'll most likely have extra to share with friends (or take to lunch on Monday). Falafel recipe is courtesy of Blissful Basil.
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 2 cups of kale
- 1/4 cup of cilantro
- 1/4 cup of parsley
- 2 shallots
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp. hemp seeds
- 2 tbsp. tahini
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice (though I usually use more)
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 3/4 tsp. cumin
- salt and pepper
I ate my falafel with cooked brown rice, roasted vegetables (put anything in the oven at 375 with olive oil, salt, pepper and you're good to go) and drizzled with tahini.
If you choose burrito bowls, you may have leftovers for the dinner taco option below (assuming you want two Mexican-inspired meals in one day). I live in Austin now... it happens.
- brown rice
- shredded romaine lettuce
- diced tomatoes with onions
- sautéed red pepper
- spicy tofu (sauté with olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, cayenne, onion powder and any other spices you like)
- black bean dip (recipe is here)
If I've learned to appreciate anything in Austin, it's tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can do so much with them and they can be so filling. If you're low on time and resources in the kitchen, tacos are your friend. All you need are tortillas, vegetables, a protein and one pan! Below is a quick easy recipe for vegetable tacos.
- handful of kale
- one medium carrot
- one zucchini
- ¼ toasted butternut squash
- ¼ heirloom tomato
- black beans (can use any kind: pinto, chickpea, black eyes, kidney, etc.)
- one avocado
- sprinkled green onions
- salt and pepper
Marinated Portobello Mushrooms
If you're craving a meaty flavor, these will do the trick! Mix in a bowl and let the mushrooms sit in the marinade for at least 3 hours. I won't lie... sometimes I only have 30 minutes if that, but the longer you let them sit, the smokier the flavor.
- hemp oil
- red wine vinegar
- soy sauce
- worcestershire sauce
- lemon juice
- salt & pepper
Be sure to tag me in your posts tomorrow and let me know how you're doing. If you're at all confused throughout the day, please send me a text or a DM via Instagram and I'll be happy to guide you in the right direction. Happy vegetable eating!