After watching a recent episode of Dragon’s Den I couldn’t help but sit and think about a comment Deborah Meaden gave to the final contestant. Durham-based Peter Smith pitched his idea of a liquor, tiger nut milk and chocolate company. Albeit a strange combination of products, he had quite an interesting idea and just needed a bit of help with streamlining his portfolio. Whilst I would love to be a multi-millionaire investor on Dragon’s Den, sadly my opinion on the product isn’t really valuable. However, one thing struck me from his encounter that I can’t seem to shake. Following his pitch, Deborah asked the punter if he was vegan himself and questioned why he created this alternative milk. After he admitted to being a full-time vegetarian and vegan ‘sometimes’ Meaden went on to joke about her 1-2 hour period of being vegan daily. Although I’m sure the dragon didn’t mean the joke to sound as condescending as it did… well, it still did?
How can we expect people to make a change when every little change gets criticised?
Believe me, I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t eat a steak or ban yourself from ordering a Boojum or Bao or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. I am a meat eater and I highly doubt I’ll ever not be. What I am trying to say is that cutting back on meat or dairy, even if it’s just 1 meal that day, WILL make a huge amount of difference. According to National UK Food statistics the average person in 2016/17 consumed 193g of chicken per week. This amounts to a colossal amount when you take into account the number of people on this earth. To put this into perspective, if the average person reduced their consumption to 170g per week (that’s only 23g- less than a quarter of the average portion) this would save over 42 million grams of chicken. In Northern Ireland alone!!
What we don’t need are people speaking disapprovingly to people who are trying to make a change.
It’s hard because I can understand where people are coming from. It’s hard to listen to someone singing their own praises about going all-vegan (acai bowls, tofu, flax seeds- the lot) when in reality they’re wearing leather Nike shoes in 75% of their Instagram posts. However, they’re probably doing more than me, and maybe you too?
When did nutrition become all or nothing? We need to end the stigma with vegetarianism and veganism and whatever else-ism. Why should they be criticised for not being at 100% when the critic is only at 15%?
In early 2018 the global environmental health company issued a final warning about climate change. Imagine we were told the world could deteriorate before our children grow up? Well, here’s the fact- we kind of have been told that? And no one seems to be listening.https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Here’s a few tips on how I (a long-time lover of milk and meat) made some small changes in my diet and in day-to-day life to limit my global impact;
1) Try out an alternative milk
It’s definitely worth trying out some flavours because they’re an acquired taste but breakfast is an easy way to cut meat or dairy out of your diet for 1 meal. Swapping out cow’s milk for soya milk also means consuming the same level of calcium and protein, while also reducing calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
2) Save the 5ps and get a reusable shopper bag
Understandably this is something easily forgotten but bags really do seriously damage the environment due to the quantity produced. Surprisingly they also contain animal fat which is used as a slipping agent to reduce friction in the material. Check out Amazon for cheap, durable alternatives or even purchase a bag holder so any previously-purchased bags can be re-used.
3) If you want to cut back- stop making meat the main focal point of all your meals
Instead of choosing a meat and then choosing your sides of veggies and carbs- make the entire dish the focal point. Try out stirfrys, pastas, chilli or stew with more emphasis on the other elements of the dish perhaps even substituting the meat for mushrooms, tofu, lentils or beans.
4) Try out meatless Monday
Check out the website below explaining how different countries around the world use this international campaign to reduce meat consumption.
5) Be adventurous with your cooking
Check out these vegetarian and vegan recipes (or the other thousand on Google) for some inspiration.
6) Cut out plastic water bottles
I’ll hold my hand up and say I’m so bad for this. I find reusable coffee cups and Love Island water bottles dirty and hard to wash, however, cutting out plastic bottles is a simple way to adopt a more sustainable approach. Invest a bit more, the environment will thank you.
While I believe cutting back on your consumption of animal produce can and will help the environment, we can’t ignore the environmental impact of alternative productions. Check out this article from BBC to find out the impact all foods have on the environment. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46459714).
Animal products are hard to escape from, there’s traces in your car tyres, nail polish, shoes, perfume, beer, sweets and even certain types of toothpaste- so why does vegetarianism have to be a permanent nutritional change when it could just be a cut-back?
Anyway, hypocritically I’m going to get a Nando’s once I finish this post. Why? Because I did my bit this week. I did what I could to help the environment and I’m happy for that to be part-time because I think that’s OK and it’s helpful. And no individual (even a dragon) should tell anyone that’s not OK or not helpful, because it is.
Lauren Wilson is a third-year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently undertaking a year’s placement at Belfast City Council. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/laurennxwilsonn/