Eating & driving planet aids

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina MS, RD, and Sahar Lakhani

Portrait of Vesanto Melina
• As spring buds appear, we might be looking at our lifestyle choices and considering new steps. Taking action gives a sense of empowerment and two effective and powerful actions we can take immediately to limit our impact on climate change are:

1. Adopt a plant-based diet or shift in that direction.

2. Choose an electric car or plug-in hybrid over a gas-fuelled car. See JM Toriel’s article in Common Ground (January 2015),

In 2010, the United Nations’ Environmental Program’s International Panel of Sustainable Resource Management stated, “A global shift towards a vegan diet is critical for mitigating global hunger and the worst impacts of climate change.” And the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has concluded that animal agriculture’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

Animal agriculture causes three times as much greenhouse gas emissions as cars, trucks, trains, boats and planes combined. Seems impossible, but methane gas from the digestive process of livestock is 25 to 100 times more destructive than CO2 from vehicles. Livestock is also the leading cause of environmental degradation.

One might expect such information to be prominent on the websites of environmental organizations such as,,,, Rainforest Action Network ( and If you search their sites hard enough, you can occasionally find minor, brief suggestions about limiting animal agriculture. But why is the topic not addressed in greater depth? The documentary Cowspiracy (, directed by Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, explores answers to this question.

In the film, Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, says, “I think they consider it [a veg. diet] to be a political loser. They’re membership organizations. They’re looking to maximize the number of people making contributions and if they get identified as being anti-meat or challenging people on their everyday habits – something that is so dear to people – it will hurt their fund raising.”

Demosthenes Maratos of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College in New York State says, “If you’re listening to the majority of the environmental organizations, they are not telling you to do much. Live your life the way you’ve been living it: change a light bulb from time to time, drive less, use less plastic, recycle more. It’s better for their fund raising and better for their profile to create a victim and perpetrator sort of plot line.”

Instead of keeping ourselves in the victim role, we can reclaim our sense of personal power by doing something, rather than assuming someone else runs the whole show. One step toward sustainable food choices is to avoid or limit consumption of animal products. Choose plant-based meals when dining out (see for great restaurant choices in your area). Going 100% vegan may seem like a huge leap so start where you are and take small steps – or a giant leap. There is great food awaiting you.

Vesanto Melina is a BC dietitian and award-winning author. Her Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition (with Brenda Davis) is one of REAL’s Top Ten Books of 2014. Their more condensed version, Becoming Vegan: Express Edition won a 2014 Canada Book Award and numerous other accolades.,


April 15

See Vesanto at Choices Market in South Surrey, 8:30 PM.

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