Recent events have focused my attention again on the daily choices we make that have profound effects on our overall sustainability. It's the "little things" in life, the daily choices, that add up and can become a "movement" (like Green Interfaith).

    Tuesday evening, about twenty of us who are interested in diet choices enjoyed a very nice potluck dinner at Munsey Memorial, followed by a presentation by Jon Camp, from Vegan Outreach. For those who aren't sure about the difference between vegans and vegetarians, vegans choose foods that do not have animal products in them (often also including honey). Vegetarians often use egg and dairy products ("ovo-lacto vegetarians") but choose not to eat meat or fish.

    There are many good reasons to choose a vegetarian or vegan diet over the traditional "Western" diet, which we know is unhealthy, especially if it is prepared from traditional "store-bought" sources. Some people choose this path because of animal rights concerns (Vegan Outreach), while others are equally persuaded by the environmental costs such as:  land use, herbicide and pesticide accumulations, industrial-scale animal management practices, water use and pollution, genetically-modified species, and biodiversity and mono-culture issues related to agriculture. Understanding our biological needs as humans and the health implications of preparing wholesome meals with simple ingredients (without 7-syllable additives) is equally persuasive to others.

    Every choice we make has energy implications, but Jon reminded us that we make conscious choices several times a day when we decide what to eat. It doesn't have to be "all-or-nothing". We don't have to make a huge and complete lifestyle change. Rather, we can choose to eat more thoughtfully a day at a time or one meal or snack at a time. I particularly liked his reference to "crowding, not cutting" foods from our diet. In other words, choosing to eat more conscientiously can gradually move us toward better food choices.

   Jon's been a vegan for 13 years, and he gave thoughtful answers to the questions following his presentation. He had already addressed the primary considerations for supplements (mostly B12, omega-3s, and vitamin D), and the fact that it is not necessarily more expensive. In fact, the case can be made that a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet can be less expensive because of the use of beans, rice, and lentils, etc. Plus, it has become much easier in the past decade to make these choices. Many products are now available to assist with recipe modification, and they don't have to make it more expensive. This lifestyle also encourages small-scale gardening and local foods, building a community of like-minded folks (sound familiar?). 

    Meal-planning for several days at a time is a side-benefit of eating this way, since you can prepare a few staples in larger amounts and then combine them in different ways over the next few days and/or freeze them for use later. It may be more expensive for those who rely mostly on convenience foods, but if you're willing to cook and toss things together (and experiment a bit) it can be a rewarding way to improve your health and your family's traditions.

    Thanks again to H.B. Lee and Munsey for hosting this event and providing us with "food for thought".

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Comment by H.B. Lee on December 2, 2011 at 8:08am

Excellent summary of Tuesday night's presentation.  I also liked the "crowding, not cutting" concept.

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