Revisiting Veganism

I’ve been vegan for over a year now. This week it was my birthday, and as a gift, I got a little pack with certificates saying that I’m now Shirley the cow’s and Hamish the pig’s ‘best buddy‘.

These guys live at Edgar’s Mission, and Shirley’s story was the catalyst to my becoming vegan. I wanted to sponsor him since he was the one that set me on the path.

Hamish is just super cute!

Anyway, it reminded me of when I first read Shirley’s story, so I thought I’d revisit the post I wrote at the time. What do you think? Was I on the right track?

I think going vegan was one of the best decisions I ever made. 🙂

In my pack from Edgar’s Mission, I got a booklet entitled Eating Up The World: the environmental consequences of human food choices. It’s produced by various vegetarian/vegan societies in Australia, so you could get a copy through any of them if you wanted one. It’s also available online at that link. I thought it might be biased considering the producers, but they cite all their sources. Anyway, the booklet really confirmed my decision for me, from an environmental standpoint. It clearly outlines how choosing not to eat animal products is pretty much the single greatest individual activity you can take to help reduce climate change. I think that’s pretty awesome.

Here are some of the main points (I didn’t know a bunch of these before I read the booklet!):

  • It takes 50,000L to 100,000L of water to produce 1kg of beef, but only 2500L to produce 1kg of white rice and much less for most other grains, fruits and vegetables. (This totally makes me think of how I was often told to eat less rice during the drought, because it was such a water-intensive crop and not suited to the Australian climate – which it’s not – but no-one ever told me to eat less beef.)
  • Over 67% of water in Australia is used for agriculture (as compared to 9% for household use), so we should concentrate our water saving efforts on what we eat/wear etc. About 90% of household water consumption comes from food consumption. People eating an omnivorous diet use approximately 3.5 times as much water for food than people eating plant-based diets. Are you seeing a connection here?
  • Australia’s livestock will produce more warming over the next 20 years (via methane) than all our coal-fired power stations combined.
  • 60% of Australia’s land is used for grazing.
  • The UN identified ‘…animal agriculture and food consumption as one of the most significant drivers of environmental pressures and climate change, stating that “a substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products”…’
  • 92% of land disturbance in Australia, which includes clearing forests and bushland, increased erosion, changes to the water table, acidifying and compacting soils, spreading weeds, unsustainable levels of manure and climate change, is caused by animal agriculture (55% beef, 36% sheep/wool, 1% dairy). The remaining 8% is all other industries. That’s EVERYTHING ELSE.
  • 5kg of wild fish is needed to produce 1kg of farmed fish.
  • Fish is one of the most contaminated foods on the planet.
  • Some parts of the ocean have been so over-fished that they are now ‘dead zones’ covering tens of thousands of square kilometres.
  • Australia now imports 30% of our oil (we used to drill our own, but it’s been dropping since 2000 – Australia has already reached peak oil). Animal agriculture uses considerably more energy than plant agriculture, considering transport of feed and livestock, operation of farm facilities including heating, cooling, lighting and slaughter facilities and the constant refrigeration required for storage of the animal products.
  • 27,000 children under the age of 5 die of poverty and starvation every day around the world – and we grow 50% more edible grain worldwide than is required to feed every person on the globe. That extra food plus more is given to farm animals.
  • The world’s cattle (so not including anything but cow type animals) eat enough food to feed more than the whole world’s population.
This has actually put a bit of a different spin on things for me. For a long time I’ve been thinking beef production is one of the better types of animal agriculture, because from an animal rights perspective, the animals live better lives than many other species. However, from this booklet, it sounds like beef is the worst environmentally. I was actually surprised that poultry and eggs didn’t show up on the graphs – I know the animals are smaller but they’re so extensively farmed…
Guess it’s a good thing I’m vegan so I don’t have to make any tough decisions. I just don’t eat any of it. Easy.
Thanks Shirley. 🙂



Reduce: Laundry

How do you manage your laundry? In our house, I’m the laundry lady. As such, I get to skip out of all kitchen chores, which is super awesome as I hate doing dishes with an absolute passion. In contrast, Yankee Elv hates laundry so it works well for us. Anyway, although it might seem like a routine chore, the way you choose to do your laundry can impact your electricity and water usage.

I have a front loader washing machine. Front loaders are more energy and water efficient than top loaders – top loaders actually use twice as much water. I only ever wash full loads and use cold water (unless I’m washing work clothes which go through on permanent press). This saves water and electricity.

Once I have the clothes washed, I don’t put them in the dryer (in fact, I don’t even own a dryer). I hang them on the line. I know that this isn’t common in the US – in fact, in some places it’s actually illegal to have a clothesline – but here in Australia it’s totally normal to have a clothesline. Every house has one, and I put up ‘under-the-house’ lines within the first two weeks of moving in here.

Under-the-house clothesline

Under-the-house clothesline

You need to be able to dry your clothes if it’s raining, right?

Another under-the-house clothesline

Another under-the-house clothesline

We have an outside line too.

The outside clothesline

The outside clothesline

When I lived in the US, we only had a dryer, and the reduction in electricity used here as compared to in Texas was dramatic, and based mostly on not using the dryer. As well as being good for the environment and your electricity bill, it’s also better for your clothes. When Australians hear that lots of Americans don’t have clotheslines, they all look horrified and ask how their clothes don’t get ruined – bras, flimsy shirts, elastic in underpants!? (Once a British colleague asked an American colleague this question and he responded by joking that all their clothes are polyester anyway, so they withstand anything.) Just remember to hang your clothes inside out or the sun will fade them.

I know in some places, line drying isn’t a feasible option in winter (and thus this post isn’t particularly timely for those of you in the northern hemisphere), but keep this in the back of your mind for spring. It’s good for the climate and your bank balance!



Newsflash: UK Goes Electric

Awesome news! Treehugger has announced that the UK government is funding new Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations across the country. This is a fantastic step forward! I hope we get these in Australia soon, but of course the Europeans are first.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

The UK government are funding EV charging stations around the country.

It makes so much sense to introduce EV charging stations in this way. Electric cars rock – check out my review of the movie ‘Who Killed the Electric Car‘ to find out more about why they’re superior to cars powered by other fuels (including biofuel). However, I’m wary about getting one because I wouldn’t be able to travel too far – there’d be nowhere to charge it except my own house. Considering how large Australia is and the kinds of distances you have to travel if you want to go somewhere, charging stations are important.

As the Treehugger article says, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg – which comes first? People want to buy electric cars, but won’t because there’s nowhere to charge them. Conversely, no-one will build charging stations because no-one owns electric cars. But no-one will buy electric cars because there are no charging stations. No-one will build… yeah, I think you get my point. The only way around this is for the government to step up and fund either or both of these options, to sort of kick start the industry. Kudos to the UK government for figuring that out and taking that big step forward.

Sometimes I think it would be cool to live in Europe and benefit from all these cool kinds of laws and politics. Then I remember how cold it is… nah. I like living in a place where, when it’s not even summer yet, there’s more of my skin exposed than covered. Sunshiny warm goodness. Perfect for the solar energy I would buy to charge my electric car with. If I had one.



Spotlight: Bathroom Cleaners

What’s in your bathroom cleaners? This lady is in for a surprise…

Funny though this clip is, the message is serious. We need to choose our bathroom cleaners wisely so we aren’t hanging out in nasty chemicals just when we’re trying to get clean.

I use Earth Choice cleaners throughout my house. I know some people make their own cleaners, or just use some bi-carb and vinegar, but honestly, I don’t have the time. I need something I can grab and spray. Earth Choice cleaners are made without nasty chemicals and are packaged in small containers using a minimum of plastic. The plastic used is recycled and recyclable. The cleaners are concentrated so you don’t need to use as much, thus minimising waste and the need to buy more bottles. There are all kinds of cleaners, for all parts of your house.

No nasty suds-men in my bathroom!!



In Vitro Meat

In Vitro Meat (IVM): bring it on.

Check out this article from H+ magazine (ok, number 6 is gross and sensationalist, but otherwise…).

It’s cheaper, healthier, better for the animals, better for the planet… I think we should go for it. I also think governments of nations highly dependent on agriculture (like Australia) need to start diversifying, stat. Build an IVM factory, start farming hemp, build some solar or wind farms, something… cos those huge cattle stations are going to dry up with the drought.

Yikes. Creepy but cool.



No Impact Project

Is anyone joining in on the No Impact Project this week? It starts today.

Although there are certainly points within the How To Manual that I could use and benefit from, I’ve decided not to officially participate this week, for two reasons:

  1. It will be difficult for me to spend the time analysing my rubbish and energy consumption, and how to further reduce the impact of my transportation.
  2. The things I could do without taking much time (like going veg, turning off lights, not using air conditioning or using reusable shopping bags), I’m already doing.

It would be a great thing to do for someone who doesn’t usually consider the environment though, or someone with more time on their hands to really perform an analysis. I would like to consider my rubbish more closely and see how I can reduce things, but I think it will have to wait until my holidays from work. Likewise my energy consumption could use some work (probably more so than anything else). I shall simply hold my own No Impact Project, when I can!

Random point from the How To Manual that I thought was quite interesting:

The hot water you need to wash dishes can be generated by filling some old jars with water and sitting them against a dark background in the sun all day.

Not sure how that works with a dishwasher though…



Spotlight: Green Jobs

I’m on the job hunt at the moment, so I thought I’d check out green jobs. Not that my job is ‘un-green’ now… I’m just a boring old office worker. I don’t work in a particularly destructive industry (although lots of metal is used, and metal mining is bad). I would like to actively contribute to making the world a better place environmentally though, rather than just maintaining the status quo.

I want a green job too!

I want a green job too!

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much I’m either qualified for or that’s available in Brisbane. I’m not really entrepreneurial so I don’t want to create my own start-up solar power company. I just want something basic I can do. Surely someone needs some workplace training created for all those new folks who are building wind turbines and solar panels, right? Currently… not so much.

I did find some interesting articles in my search though, including:

Ten Best Green Jobs for the Next Decade
This article lists the kinds of industries that will be in high demand as climate change affects us even more. It’s US-centric but the basics are there. The top ten green jobs are: farmer, forester, solar power installer, energy efficiency builder, wind turbine fabricator, conservation biologist, green MBA and entrepreneur, recycler, sustainability systems developer and an urban planner. I have friends with some of those jobs! But not me.

Green Gigs
This is really a blog, not an article. There are lots of posts about looking for sustainable jobs, many of them telecommuting jobs. Telecommuting is often overlooked as a way to make a job sustainable. It’s something I could do in my current line of work quite easily, and something I keep in mind when looking for jobs. It’s not really getting out and actively making a difference though.

Ten Green Jobs to Stimulate Your Career, the Economy and the Planet
This blog post is related to the first one I mentioned, but instead of focusing on the those ten jobs, it reasons why they’re important. Better yet, it lists the top ten green jobs that will earn you over $100,000 per year. Hey, I don’t want to be greedy, but I would like to own a house on a decent plot of land one day, with animals and children and one of us as a stay-at-home mother. If only one of either myself or Yankee Elv is working, then that person better be making a decent salary!

Green Gold Rush
This article, on the Australian Conservation Foundation‘s site, talks at a high-level about how green-collar jobs can stimulate a fading economy, and how Australia can be a leader in the green industry. It makes sense the way public works made sense in the depression of the 1930s. You’ve got to get people out there earning, so they can be spending, so the economy will thrive. A booming green economy will achieve this, while at the same time encouraging sustainability. You want to be earning and spending, but on the right things. And maybe we don’t need to spend quite as much as we do now… or rather, maybe we need to re-evaluate what we spend our money on.

I know I also saw a site where you can search for green jobs, globally (as opposed to the green section on CareerOne, an Australian job site I hate… it never gives results matching my search strings in an effective way, no matter what I do). Can I find that site now though? I think not. If anyone comes across it, could you please send me the link?

What kinds of green jobs do you recommend?