A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Three Things We Can All Do

Small lifestyle changes that make a big difference

The amount of food an average family wastes in a single month. (New York Times, 2008)

By Michael Mountain

Three things in the news this week lead to the obvious conclusion that we can do a lot to save our world from going down the tubes … if we just make some simple changes in our way of living.

Since governments are never going to take the lead in turning the tide on galloping climate change or protecting the animals from rampant exploitation, it’s good to know we can simply take action ourselves. The future of the planet is up to us individually as much as it is to big governments, corporations and institutions. If we lead, they will follow.

The three things I noticed this week all have to do with food.

Waste not, want not

Surplus tomatoes thrown away in Tenerife

First was a report from the United Nations saying that no less than one third of all food produced in the world each year goes to waste. That’s a staggering 1.3 billion tons of food.

This squandering of food is split evenly between rich countries and poor countries. In poor countries, the waste is mainly due to poor management: food rotting in warehouses, bad farming practices – things like that.

But in wealthier countries like the United States, it’s because we just throw food away. In other words, we could really stop this – if we choose to.

It comes down to not buying what we’re not going to eat, and, when we’re in a restaurant, not ordering food that we’re going to leave sitting on the plate.

Meatless Monday

Meatless Monday at a Whole Foods store

The second thing is to eat plant-based foods one day a week.

More and more people are talking about how we can mitigate global warming simply by eating fewer animal foods. The Environmental Defense Fund reports that cutting out meat and dairy just once a week would make a really big difference:

“It turns out you don’t have to make a big change in your kitchen in order to make a big change in the world – and improve your health. If all of us adopted this simple initiative, we would save enough energy annually – from avoided meat production – equivalent to taking eight million cars off the road.”

Meatless Monday is a movement that’s growing around the country. And this notion is by no means a new one. Our parents all did it in World War II, and their parents in World War I. To help provide for the war effort, the government appealed to all Americans to save food for the troops by observing Meatless Monday and Wheatless Wednesday, and to plant Victory Gardens in their backyards and on window ledges.

We need to do the same thing today. One of the biggest causes of climate change is farm animals, especially cows, who emit huge quantities of methane gas into the atmosphere. So if all of us in America skipped meat and dairy and ate plant foods just one day a week for a year, it would be like taking eight million cars off the road.

Even better, it would reduce a whole lot of suffering at factory farms, too.

A vegan way of living brings with it a Grand Slam of benefits: It’s good for the environment, good for the animals, and good for our health. After all, the three big killers today – heart disease, cancer and Type Two diabetes – are in large part the result of eating an animal-based diet.

And the ripple effect just keeps going. Just imagine, for example, what this would do to the health care debate and all the angst over cutting the budget for Medicare and Medicaid. We wouldn’t need half of that money because we wouldn’t be getting so sick.

Meatless Monday is a great start and can make a big difference. Once you see the benefits, you may decide to go further and adopt a fully plant-based diet. It will make you a happier and healthier person overall, and it will be a huge bonus to animals and the whole environment.

Save the bees

And the third item is just a little icing on the cake. Skip the commercial honey, too.

You’ve probably heard about the troubles that honeybees are having. For several years, they’ve been suffering from what’s called Colony Collapse Disorder. They get disoriented, fly off in in no particular direction and die without ever returning home. This is a big problem, not just to the bees but to our crops, since bees are essential to pollinate the fruit trees, nut trees and other plants. We can’t do without them.

But bees have been seriously exploited by commercial beekeepers, who truck them around the country in ways that are entirely unnatural. The honey that the bees store up for the winter is taken away from them and replaced with sugar, which makes them weaker and more subject to getting sick.

So let’s do the bees a favor by not eating commercial honey. It’s a small thing to do, and a real act of solidarity with these remarkable animals who, for thousands of years, were revered by our ancestors as the sacred link to the afterlife.

Incidentally, a new study out this week shows that bees are also being affected by radiation from cell phones and cell towers. So cutting down on all that chatting and texting could make a difference too.

All in all, there’s a whole lot we can do to help the animals, help the environment, and feel much better ourselves – just by doing some really simple things: Don’t waste the food we have, go meat free one day a week or more, and treat all animals with kindness and respect.

What do you say? Are you up for doing any of these three things? Or maybe you’re doing them already. Either way, tell us your experience in a comment below or on Facebook.