Published on November 1st, 2017 | by Andrea Bertoli0
If You Care About Cleantech, You Have To Change Your Diet
November 1st, 2017 by Andrea Bertoli
Certainly, if you’re a reader here, you care about the future of our planet. It doesn’t matter whether you’re passionate about solar, wind, electric vehicles, energy storage, or something else — we all know all of these solutions are what we need to rebuild the grid, create resilient infrastructure for cities and islands, and ensure that we reduce our emissions to slightly livable levels.
But one of the biggest missing pieces in the cleantech solutions conversation is not cleantech related at all. You can have more impact with your daily diet than you can with other cleantech solutions, and it’s super important to bridge that knowledge gap.
That doesn’t mean that driving an EV or putting solar panels on your house isn’t still incredibly important, but that there are multiple ways to reduce your impact on the planet, and choosing to eat less meat (or no meat at all) is one of the most important to reduce your carbon footprint.
“You Can’t Be a Meat-Eating Environmentalist”
The saying that you can’t be a meat-eating environmentalist is more true than ever, even if the term environmentalist is a bit dated. But this is the basic idea: greenhouse gas emissions from animal production are incredibly high (worse than previously thought, actually). As our author Steve Hanley explains, “In the new book Drawdown, eating a plant-rich diet is #4 on the list of 100 things humanity can do to slow or reverse global warming. Electric cars are #49.”
I wanted to bring this conversation to CleanTechnica after I had a conversation with noted race car driver and general badass activist Leilani Münter. We met at her hotel in Honolulu (she was in town for the Oahu Veg-Fest), she took me for a drive in her Tesla (!), then we sat down to discuss the connection between cleantech, sustainability, and diet.
Münter gets some good credibility for being one of the few female race car drivers, but she’s bringing something new to the tracks. In daily life she drives a Tesla, has solar panels on her roof, and eats a vegan diet. (It was actually her Tesla that was the foundation for the projector used for the recent Model 3 final unveiling and delivery event.) She promotes herself as a “vegan hippie chick with a race car,” but she’s really one of the most important activists in the broader sustainability movement, and because of her position as a cleantech-focused race car driver, she has the potential to bridge the gap between gearheads and greenies and bring the sustainability conversation to new audiences.
The Cleantech Conversation Needs to Include a Cleaner Diet
Münter said in our interview that while being vegan is primarily an animal ethics argument for her, she realized that didn’t resonate with everyone.
We talked about how there is such an abundance of information out there now showing us that a vegan diet is the best thing we can do for our bodies, our planet, and the animals. But films like Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, and What the Health might turn people away because people KNOW it’s going to change them.
“People are creatures of habit,” she says, “And they get overwhelmed — they’ve been eating meat and dairy their whole lives. Many are scared of the messages [from films like Conspiracy or Okja] so they purposely avoid these messages. But for those that don’t resonate with health or animal arguments, there is the sustainability argument.” And this, she says, is the conversation that she’s having with her cleantech or clean energy friends.
In 2015, Leilani was part of the film Racing Extinction, and said that this film made a huge impact on her clean energy friends because it focused on energy but made clear that our diet is just as much a part of the equation. She knows not everyone can buy an EV, not everyone has a south-facing roof for solar panels. But, everyone has the power to make a huge impact: “Three times a day, we have the choice to leave meat and dairy impact off our plate. This makes a huge impact for animals, for environment, and for your health.”
She said that multiple people from the clean energy world came to see the film and finally made the connection between sustainability and meat eating. “Their daytime life was all about renewables and saving the world, but they hadn’t made this connection. This is a super important connection to make.” You can read more from our interview here.
Changing Habits for a Changing Planet
As a chef and educator, I meet people all the time who can’t even imagine their lives without meat — and I totally understand that point of view. Whether it’s culture, habit, or convenience, we all have reasons why we stick with our routines. And it’s not my goal to force anyone to change their habits overnight, but rather to encourage folks to make smarter, healthier, more ecologically focused decisions about the connection between diet and climate change.
One of the most diplomatic ways to address this is a quote from author Jonathan Safran Foer, who researched why we choose to eat what we do in cultures across the world in the book Eating Animals. His quote, which has stuck with me for years, is something like this: while he understands that not 80% of the world will become vegetarian over the next decades, what he can hope is that at least 80% of the meals eaten will be vegetarian.
This quote to me seems pretty middle ground: maybe you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but can you instead try to eat more vegetarian meals each day? The impact is potentially huge, for the health of your body and our planet. That’s basically what Steve Hanley was recently pushing for as well.
Leilani image from her site; cow image by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash