Tom is passionate about the environment, loves spending time outdoors mountain biking and has a passion for science backed up with a Master of Science in Geophysics.
In 1970, a senator from Wisconsin, USA, Gaylord Nelson first conceived this day as he was worried about the rate of industrialisation and the careless attitude of everyone towards our environment.
47 years on it may seem like a rapid downward spiral with extreme weather events occurring in rapid succession, polluted water ways or increasingly poor health statics as examples.
You may ask “what can I do as one person to make a difference – it seems like a drop in the ocean?” It can seem overwhelming.
I’m blessed with two amazing sons who have both made the choice to be vegan firstly for sustainability reasons and secondly due to animal welfare and rights. I do not proclaim to be an expert on the environmental impacts of agriculture and recently enjoyed a discussion with Tom on the subject.
Robin: We often hear many arguments around the environmental impact of agricultural practices for example topsoil is being eroded due to farming practices, nutrients are being depleted, waterways are being polluted or species are dying off because their homeland has been destroyed for grains, soy and corn based farmland.
Tom: These impacts would be reduced by orders of magnitude if we didn’t raise animals to in turn kill them for food. The vast majority of grains, soy and corn produced in the United States is used to feed livestock, which are in turn slaughtered to feed the human population. This one of the main points in Cowspiracy a film well worth watching. I’m not going to regurgitate facts and figures presented in Cowspriacy (basically because I wouldn’t do the documentary justice) but in summary this is the argument for switching to a plant based diet. This is an incredibly inefficient way to feed the population. Regardless of its species, throughout its lifetime any animal raised for slaughter consumes more food and water than is produced from it. This means that far more land is required to produce feed for agriculture than if we were just cropping land to feed the human population. This leads to larger amounts of habitat destruction, dead animals and general added strain on the natural environment and our natural resources than if we used cropping land to feed ourselves and not breeding other species.
We are fortunate in New Zealand that the majority of our beef is grass feed however feedlots do exist and are on the rise – we need to be vigilant in understanding our food chain to make informed decisions. Animals often need supplementary feed particularly in the cold winter months – what environmental impact is this having? We often see beef in the supermarket that is not grown in New Zealand, what have these animals been raised on?
Switching to a vegan diet is a personal choice and one that takes careful research to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need. While it may not be an option you want to fully embrace at this time, how about starting with one plant based day per week? A plant based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50% so even 1 day per week, does make a difference. It’s also money saving – plant based eating tends to be lighter on the wallet overall. I haven’t attempted to discuss the pros and cons of a plant based diet for health reasons – that’s for another day!
- Be mindful in the supermarket – don’t overdo it on groceries. Only buy what you need, food wastage is a huge problem, it’s also better on your wallet! Remember to take your own reusable bags.
- Start a small garden, containers are great too if you don’t have space or are renting. This way you know what’s gone onto your plants and you’re reducing food miles. Herbs and salad leafy greens are a great way to start.
- Eat fresh – be mindful of packaged foods, what’s gone into them and how have they been produced including packaging.
- Buy local and in season – reduce food miles and support local businesses. Be in tune with the seasons, what’s growing in your local area and consume these foods to nurture your body.
- Compost or have a worm farm to keep your at home eco cycle going.
- Share your surpluses – make someone’s day, you’ll feel fantastic too!
- Vote with your $$ – support sustainable businesses by buying their products.
- Walk or bike where you can – not only fuel savings or saving wear and tear on your vehicle but a great way to get in exercise and slow down.
- Op shop and repurpose items – one of my favourites! A great way to give to charity while helping the environment
- Most importantly do your research – be informed, be curious, ask questions. Watch documentaries like Cowspiracy and draw your own conclusions.
I’m also available to talk to groups, get in touch with Robin today.
You must be the change you want to see in the world. Mahatma Gandi