When you think about actions you can take to help reduce the effects of climate change, you may think about driving a more fuel-efficient car, riding a bike instead of driving, or using solar energy in your house. While these actions are all important and helpful, the Green Team Food Justice Group has been exploring the often overlooked link between food choices and climate change, specifically the beneficial impact of eating more plant-based foods and less meat and dairy. In fact, a recent University of Oxford study found that “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication [excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water], land use and water use.”
Leaders in the Presbyterian church have come out in favor of eating less meat and dairy and see diet change as a way to mitigate climate change, stating “as a connectional church, we can inspire one another to choose behaviors that jibe with our beliefs in the sacredness of life and God’s creation.” When one considers the inhumane ways in which animals raised for mass consumption are treated, where they become units of production rather than individual sentient beings deserving of care and respect, it is clear how far we have come from the stewardship of God’s creation we were entrusted to be. After all, we learn from Ecclesiastes 3:19 that “what happens to people also happens to animals… in fact, they all breathe the same way, so that a human being has no superiority over an animal.”
The Green Team is looking at ways that as a church, we can inspire one another to make food choices that reflect our care for the earth. For example, Deb Baer and her daughter Emily Reed shared in a post-service talk about the ethics involved in their decision to become vegans and how that also became a spiritual journey. Central to their talk was a question taken from a book by Earthling Ed: “If we don’t have to kill God’s creatures, do you not think a kind, compassionate, benevolent God would rather that we didn’t?”
Up to 40% of all food is wasted in this country. While most of that waste occurs in supermarkets and restaurants, we can all do our part to reduce it. We encourage church members to become more aware of these issues and to develop their own plans for reducing meat and dairy in their daily round. For example, there are now many meat substitutes available in supermarkets that look and taste remarkably like animal-based meat including Impossible beef and Beyond Meat. Just be sure to choose those with minimal ingredients, ample protein and reasonable amounts of saturated fats and sodium. In addition, there are tasty vegan alternatives to mayonnaise, butter, cheese, etc.