Quite obviously, I am personally not vegan. My husband and my extended family hunt and fish and I grew up crabbing even though I don’t eat much in the way of seafood. We share in the purchase of a half or quarter cow every summer. We talk about some day adding chickens and honey bees to really have an urban homestead beyond my extensive garden. I spent a year of grad school leaning about sustainable food and agriculture.

Meat, dairy, and other animal products have been, and will continue to be, a part of our lives. So why am I sharing a guest post today about all the environmental and frugal reasons to go vegan? Because as strange as it may seem, the reasons for veganism that Bethany shares below have very strong similarities to the type of sustainable, ethical animal food consumption I strive for. That being said, since I’m not vegan, it makes sense for this post to come from someone who has made that choice.

Bethany writes and hosts a podcast at His and Her FI with her partner, Charles, both Pacific Northwest natives. She’s a teacher and a serious dog and cat mom, and she shares my penchant for animals, the environment, and financial independence. She has made the decision to go vegan, so she is the perfect one for this discussion. Without further ado, here are Bethany’s environmental and frugal reasons for going vegan.

If you love this topic, and want to hear more from Bethany – and myself – on the topic of sustainability and personal finance, I’ll be on their podcast tomorrow (link live Tuesday 9/11). I hope you’ll tune in! I had a great time talking to both of them and enjoyed a podcast appearance where the focus was all about the environment, while talking about finances as well, of course.

The Environmental and Frugal Reasons to Go Vegan

Something happened this year that will change the future of our planet forever. Sound like an exaggeraion? It is not, I promise.  The United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement made in 2016 that includes 147 countries. We are the ONLY country to have pulled out of the agreement and the environmental impacts will be great (in a bad way).

Thus, the concern for our planet and reducing green house gas emissions now needs to take center stage in our own lives since it is of no concern to the current President and Cabinet. Sustainability needs to shift from being a trend to being a way of life. While recycleing, reducing waste, and riding your bike can all help- there is one thing we partake in at least 3 times a day that can and will make the HUGE impact – food.

If you care about our planet in the slightest or the future of younger generations- then read on.  One thing about this post is certain. It will not be popular.  If you enjoy traveling, hiking or being in nature without a hazmat suit, then set down your bacon and keep reading.

We are slaughtering more than cows for hamburger. We are slaughtering the earth by eating them. 

Woah, woah, hold on there little miss! We breed those animals for food and they taste good and I …Let me stop you right there- animal agriculture and our high consumption of meat is ripping the planet apart. We are literally grinding it up bit by bit- because it “tastes good” and because “life is too short.” Well you are right about that last one- life will be very short here on earth if we continue in this same direction.

The animal agriculture industry, is affecting the following: Forests, Species Extinction, Climate, Land, Water, Waste and Marine Life. Not only is it affecting these things, it is the leading cause for many of them. Leading. That is right, more than our automotive industry or even our own waste.

• Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon deforestation. Remember how the focus was all about Palm Oil and how that industry was the main culprit? Palm oil is responsible for 26 million acres. Animal agriculture is responsible for 136 million acres.

• The destruction of the Rainforest contributes to another major problem: Species Extinction. It is estimated that in the Rainforests alone we are losing 135 plant, animal and insect species per day. The Rainforest is not our only concern- oceans and other habitats are also being destroyed. Many ocean dead zones, which are large areas unable to support marine life anymore, are around farms which leak into the ocean contributing to species extinction.

• Climate change also contributes in a major way to Ocean Dead Zones and of course the rapid decline of the natural habitats of animals. Animal Agriculture also plays a major role in climate change. The Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the meat and dairy industries (and their byproducts) far outweighs that of the automotive. In the Georgetown Environmental Law Review they break down not only the insane and detrimental impact of these industries to our climate, but also the lack of laws to prevent this from happening.

• 1/3 of the earth’s ice free land is used for the raising of animals according to The Triple Whopper Environmental Impact of Global Meat Production article in Time Magazine. They also state, “ There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock.”(2013)

• 55% of the United States water use goes to animal agriculture, while only 5% is used for domestic. (Jacobson- Center for Science in Public Interest- D.C.)

• Fisheries. Did you know that when those boats scoop up the tuna, they also scoop up hundreds of other marine life. If the rapid rise to the surface, being squished up against other panicking fish and the suffocation doesn’t kill them, the throw back into the water often does the trick. (Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries)

• Let’s not forget about the poop. Straight from the USDA handbook for animal agriculture, animals raised for food in the United States produce 7 million pounds of excrement every minute. This raises another issue- and that is one of humanity. I know, what does cow poop have to do with this? Next bullet please.

• It is called Environmental Racism. Animal agriculture, including tanneries within the US and around the world leak toxic chemical and animal waste into the surround waters and air of the community. They really have little choice with the amount that is produced in these farms. Being close to these factory farms has caused serious health concerns and early deaths for those who live in the area. Of course the populations in the areas that surround most factory farms, especially beef and pig farms are composed of African Americans and migrant workers who cannot afford to live anywhere else.

• While the human rights issues in the States are catastrophic, they do not stop there. 82% of emaciated and hungry children live in countries where the food is fed to animals and the animals are eaten by western countries.

These are only a few impacts animal agriculture has. The list goes on and on.

Have these facts convinced you yet? At the very least, the corruption and total disdain these industries have for our planet and humanity should be at the forefront of your mind now.

So why are we not looking more into this industry? Why are we not searching for a more sustainable life and adopting it as part of our culture? You guessed it. Money. The thing that most of us in the personal finance world have in the forefront of our minds- so do the people sitting on their plush leather chairs running the meat and dairy industries. I can imagine they also found it delightful when we pulled out of the Global act that asked us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions- considering meat and dairy drive this number up every second of the day.

Wait a minute, what about the money? The money comes right from the government. The American government spends $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries according to Metonomics. This reduces the price for consumers, meaning more of them will continue to eat and drink it. While this allows access to food – at the same time it allows for the continued damage to our planet and our health.

If you can’t get into riding a bike- maybe you could get into spinach. 

I am Vegan. Yes, that privileged choice that many of us get to make once we can choose what to put on our plates and in our bodies. I am not one of those Vegans that preaches a “This works for everyone”….because it does not. The single mom on food stamps may not be able to adopt a total vegan lifestyle for her family.  The Military would have to restructure in a MAJOR way in order to feed the troops plant based diets.

However, we have choices for what we put into our body and who we support. Factory Farming and Fisheries are hurting us. Our insane meat consumption is hurting us. We do have control over this. This can reduce emissions. So maybe only eat meat once a week instead of every meal. Go fishing or buy from a local farmer. There are ways to slowly pull yourself away from the animal agriculture industry and reduce your own emissiona.

Be aware of who they are, what they stand for and what they support. Here are our 23 Impactful Reasons We Went Vegan that include more than the sustainability part. It is not as hard as you might think- ChooseFI  even has a FI Vegan episode. Give it a listen here.

A plant based diet cuts your carbon footprint by 50% compared to that of a meat eater. So if you are not into riding your bike- maybe you could get into spinach.

It may be about the earth, but it should be about the animals.

What was your first pet? A fish? Snake? Maybe you were of the elite few who got to have a puppy or even better,  a pony. Mine was a guinea pig- two to be exact (Angela here – my first pet was a guinea pig as well! Her name was Ginger). I loved those things more than I loved my brother (sibling rivalry and all).

While I went Vegan (plant based) first for the environment, second for my health- I realized that the most natural part of the transition was to do it for the animals. I know, this is where I might lose some of you. Animals are food- it is natural for us to eat meat- we need protein- the reasoning for animal consumption are plentiful (even if I fundamentally disagree).

Yet, we live in a divided nation that cannot seem to feel empathy for anyone or anything but themselves. An empathy epidemic has plagued human kind, and I cannot help but think that the elevation of our species as the “top” and the willingness to inhumanely breed and kill animals so we can have a dopamine hit when we bite into a piece of pizza may have screwed up our priorities. When did we have such little care for the living ? When did we start caring so little for the earth?

I have always been an animal enthusiast. I worked on a farm, had my own horse that I paid for, raised guinea pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, fish, cats, dogs and even caterpillars as a kid. One thing they taught me was care and empathy. If you have ever raised animals, you know they depend on you for everything. For their food and water, for their quality of life, for the love they receive.

If we as a species eat animals, we are responsible for their lives and for their impact on the earth. Chew on that.

How do you pay attention to where your food comes from? Is cost most important, or are there other factors that help you decide what to consume?

24 thoughts on “The Environmental and Frugal Reasons to Go Vegan (Guest Post from Bethany of His and Her FI)

  1. Cool post Bethany – I’ve been veggie for over 20 years and occasionally debate going vegan – the longest I’ve managed it for was a month before.

    But I am very supportive of those that manage it – and I love seeing Veganism become more and more mainstream.

    1. Vegetarian/vegan has been a pretty common thing in the PNW for a while now but it seems as of late it’s becoming a thing all over the country.

  2. Interesting post. I am fascinated by the impacts of food choices and how crazy political eating/the food industry is. I don’t believe veganism is for everyone, but support those who are. I definitely agree with reducing the amount of meat and using more sustainable methods!

    1. I think if more people started voting with their wallets either by opting out altogether or purchasing only local, sustainable options we would see a shift. Until then, there’s no incentive for the factory farms to do anything differently.

  3. It comes down to an awareness of where is all that food coming from and what impact is it having on the world around us. I’m not vegan but rather vegetarian and I have chosen to do so for the reasons listed above but also because I am healthier than I have ever been since changing to this lifestyle this year.

    On a side note, my food budget has actually decreased so it is very affordable to eat a natural whole food plant based diet. That is a misconception in my opinion.

    Thanks for continuing to share these stores on impacts on our environment from food choices to consumerism.

    1. Glad you are enjoying this series! I’m loving the realization that there’s more overlap in the personal finance / sustainability communities than I realized.

  4. Such a great article! My boyfriend has been vegetarian for 20 years, I’ve been *mostly* vegetarian for the last 5 (occasional wild-caught salmon), and we’ve been testing veganism for the last few months. What’s great about the plant-based diet is that we can spend more on organic/non-GMO produce and flavorful spices, keeping meals healthy and exciting while remaining budget-friendly.
    The animal argument is 100% what did it for me. I love animals and such a deep empathy for living creatures; there is such a disconnect between the cow on the farm and the burger on the grill, and I think people would cut back on meat if they were responsible for raising and slaughtering their own dinner. I have nothing against people who do choose to eat meat, but I would love to see people, just for a second, consider where their food came from and what it cost (animal pain, water consumed, etc.)

    1. No matter where you fall, I think there’s always an argument for eating less meat + paying attention to where ALL your food comes from.

  5. Wow, this is a very well written post. Thanks for including the stats.

    I was raised in the Midwest where we had meat with every meal, probably because my Mom was raised on a dairy farm. I am not a vegan or a vegetarian but I simply don’t eat a lot of meat now. Partly due to cost and partly due to health. I think you’ve given me some substantial new reasons to keep scaling back.

    1. I’m certain being vegan – or even vegetarian – still isn’t very popular in your area of the country!

  6. Wow, well written post.
    I am not a vegetarian or a vegan but I am starting to make different choices about our food, while still being careful about the cost.
    Our meat portions are getting smaller for sure. I don’t think I could give up meat all together, I love my steak. I will just be mindful of the size and how often we should have it.

  7. This is such a wonderful post. My wife and I have been vegan for more than 2 years now and it totally resonates with me. There are so many compelling reasons why everybody should consider an organic whole food plant based diet and this article gives so many of them.

    “I am not one of those Vegans that preaches a “This works for everyone”….because it does not.”

    The truth is: it should and can work for everyone. The only reason why it doesn’t work for everyone is because of the governmental subsidies to meat and dairy. Without these subsidies and if meat were priced accordingly, it would be quite a bit more expensive compared to grains, vegetables and other plant-based foods. In reality, foods like rice, beans, potatoes, and certain seasonal vegetables are already cheaper than subsidized meat. So it should work even for people on a low income.

    A sad reality is that low income communities are often food deserts with poor food options such as unhealthy processed food. Instead of subsidizing the meat / dairy industry and the big food / processed food industry, the government should work to give lower income folks access to healthier, fresh food.

    1. “For everyone” is a pretty blanket statement though. My brother in law dealt with a health condition for YEARS as a vegetarian and it went away as soon as he added meat back to his diet. Though I absolutely agree with the rest of what you’ve said here 🙂

  8. Every year it seems our family eats less meat. While I myself, do not claim to be vegetarian, I find meat to be overly expensive and not a frugal source of protein. With increased health benefits and benefits to the planet, I’m migrating to more nuts and grains, such as quinoa and garbanzo beans for nutrition.

    The impact of humanity on the planet is overwhelming to think of. But take a minute and find one way you can help the planet. If everyone adopted one practice to help the environment and planet we could experience a real change.

    Great Post!

  9. So much yes here! Thank you. All these reasons are amazing. If every single person in the US, heck the whole world, made the choice to focus on local and seasonal plants, and if they choose to keep meat in their diets to only choose local, sustainably raised and pastured meats and dairy in small amounts, imagine the difference in the entire landscape of our food system. Imagine the billions saved on healthcare through plummeting diabetes and obesity and heart disease, and the huge increase in quality of life for millions of communities. Imagine the saved topsoil and forests and species diversity and water. Imagine the better and more humane lives food animals would have, and the shift back to respect for life even in death. A girl can dream.

    1. It’s certainly a big dream, but I like it! Perhaps you and I can help move the needle some 🙂

  10. Great post Bethany! We went vegan at home almost two years ago now. We mostly chose that route for the environment, but definitely have saved lots of money and improved our health. We live in the Midwest (though not in a rural part), and I’m amazed by how many of our friends and acquaintances have also made that choice or at least greatly reduced their animal consumption.

  11. Having made one year on the ketogenic diet for healthspan reasons, I’m not one to judge a person’s diet. I will openly admit to eating meat. I will also admit not to eating it anywhere near as much as I once did. Before college, meat was part of every meal. But in college and graduate school, I went on a vegetarian diet and rather enjoyed it.

    I didn’t miss eating meat, save for one type- steak. When I was veggie-munching full-time, I was more than satisfied with my diet. If anything, I found a whole new world of wonderful vegetable-centric recipes. But when I was at a restaurant and saw someone cut into a juicy steak, much like Pavlov’s dog, I began salivating.

    Now, on the keto diet, I go nuts on spinach, avocados, olive oil, almond flour, flax seed, and peanut butter. I like to think I’m reducing my meat intake as a result of getting my caloric needs met elsewhere first.

    1. That’s my problem – I could be closer to vegetarian if my husband and kid weren’t such meat eaters! I get too tempted when I see them eating it lol

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