Sustainable Living – time to make the biggest change


this one starts off as a celebration and then it includes a reality check… a hard pill to swallow;
my journey to sustainable living continues.

Wow! Look how far I’ve come- a premature celebration.

Yesterday I lived in a comfortable bliss, feeling proud of how much I have changed in just under a year. The total collection of waste I accumulate in a year can be collected in under 6 standard trash bags. I am well on my way to a #zerowaste life and thus I felt like I was becoming the change I wanted to see.  From everything I was learning, I myself was drastically cutting back on consumption- not only in trash waste, but water, energy, single-use items, toxins…etc, too.  

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Robert Swan

American Society- far from Sustainable Living

While in Maryland I was adapting to living a more sustainable life- that’s when this blog became more about becoming sustainable and less about my travel diaries. Don’t get me wrong- travel is what inspired this lifestyle shift and changing my American way was tough. This is not something I learned growing up, nor do either of my parents subscribe to this lifestyle- believe me.  

For the first 6 months after traveling I was jobless. I was focused on finding a job with purpose. In a panic, I quickly picked up a job when COVID19 hit because I was worried about a recession. In those 6 months, while I was not paid I was working, more than ever actually. Those days were long. Without any sort of paper to show for it, I was diving into case studies and educating myself on the environment and our daily choices and their effects on the longevity of the World.

Time to Progress… America

Before this, my life was programmed by my parents… who were programmed by their own parents- as all of us are, creating a vicious cycle delayed in progress as we slowly evolve. Humans don’t have time to evolve slowly while our population is doubling overnight. A lot of the information sourced to program us and our parents and even their parents come from society standards created by the media as well as ‘scientific studies’ that have since been proven wrong. In fact, much of it is used as false advertising.

After discovering analytics, statistics, and predictions based on scientific evidence and case studies with peer reviews, it was easy to see that the media and what I was taught was actually based on funding. We cannot rely on media and ‘news’ to be our only sources of facts because a lot of it is swayed by funding. In the end, even our health organizations, including non-profits, and our environmentalist organizations are working together… with the main focus not being on long term health or sustainability but short term profitability. It’s sad but true.

Wait, is America a developing country?

At the rate we are currently going, it is not a sustainable country… so we have a lot more to figure out. With technology advancements in the late 90s people were ideally going to be able to work less hours and still produce the same amount of work. Americans were suppose to live more like how Europeans are living today. People would have more time to live healthier lives, more time to, well… LIVE. Instead, the advancement made businesses more money hungry- demanding more time, faster results, and a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality; which I for one can attest is not a healthy life.

As a solution to the decrease in American’s time to be ‘free’- our country transitioned to this new lifestyle with fast food/quick meal alternatives. Our foods became more processed and our lifestyle changed and the overall health of ourselves and our planet suffer because of this. We lost track of value: nutrition, health, sustainability, our families…. and what matters most in life TIME to enjoy it. We all became money hungry.

A Trophy for my Sustainable Living

Damn, I am proud of my progress, I have made HUGE changes BUT I only can be recognized and rewarded for my efforts the way a GenZ child received a trophy just because they joined a club sports team. I get a participation trophy for showing up… for trying. I don’t want this post to deter people from the progress they are making. Everything I am doing to become sustainable and reduce my footprint is still important. Everything you are doing to become sustainable is making the planet better than it was yesterday.

The problem with my progress, or what I thought was progress, is it’s continuously cancelled out by my diet and I didn’t even know this. There is an industry that is continuing to out date itself, an industry that we allow to ‘pull the wool over our eyes’, an industry hiding in plain sight while we LITERALLY consume it. It’s the meat industry. I can’t believe those words just came out of my mouth. To be more precise- it’s animal agriculture. And I for one, was never a person who thought I would consider being vegetarian- let alone vegan.

Am I becoming one of those People?

I have been handed the fliers from PETA and similar organizations depicting slaughter houses since 2010. I remember making a comment to my boyfriend at the time…something along the lines of ‘dairy products aren’t killing animals’- thinking the animal isn’t harmed… etc. I dismissed the entire argument because I was targeted while buying milk and cheese instead of at the butcher counter. I claim to be an animal lover- a BIG ‘adopt, don’t shop’ kinda guy- rescuing all my pets. Yet, I never would consider not eating meat or animal products. Based on the ‘blood type theory’ my body thrives on red meat; I am O positive.

Today is July 20th 2020 and I am finally contemplating becoming a vegan.  I am also writing this as I eat grilled chicken sausage smothered by fresh grated parmesan cheese over some penne noodles with chopped tomatoes. Call me a hypocrite- but we have to start somewhere and I wasn’t raised a vegan. This was never a part of my plan- but neither was sustainable living. I have packages of meat in my kitchen RIGHT NOW that I am going to have to finish because part of being sustainable enlists the idea of not letting any food/part of food go to waste.

I’m committed, it’s part of the lifestyle.

Sustainable living includes understanding all the resources that go into making each and every product we purchase/consume. This is why I can’t believe I am only now realizing the problems behind animal agriculture and how it HUGELY is contributing to the climate crisis and the deforestation of our planet. I also can’t believe I am this person, and I joke… because this might be worse than being a ‘Karen’ but I just can’t help myself. I am OBSESSED with this planet… people, not so much. Also, I am pretty mad this was so well hidden when I was intensely researching ways to live sustainably- again… FUNDING.

Can I eat meat while living Sustainably?

This post is meant to show the importance of impact- primarily the importance of how our current diet takes away from any real progress for our world to be sustainable. The ‘American diet’ is in NO WAY sustainable to the Earth (or to our health). I assume much of the World is adapting to our eating trends as well. When I travel I see the lines at our fast food international franchises.

During my transition back to the ‘American ’ lifestyle, including 40+ hour work weeks, I have cut back on consuming meat… and most processed foods for that matter. In Asia, there wasn’t cheese- so my addiction took a back seat. Did you know cheese actually holds similar properties to opioids, with addictive properties? It’s true, studies have found:

“because the dairy proteins inside can act as mild opiates. Fragments of cheese protein, called casomorphins, attach to the same brain receptors as heroin and other narcotics. As a result, each bite of cheese produces a tiny hit of dopamine.”

Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

After cutting back on cheese, and overall having a sensitive stomach to most dairy- I already started a more plant-based/ dairy-free diet. I choose oat milk over almond because of the whole bee situation. I also like the taste of oat milk and consistency more than other alternatives. One of my main focuses on sustainable living was cutting out products packaged in plastics, this eliminated most processed foods. Generally speaking, I’ve eaten less cheese and less red meat since coming home, too. I also participated in Meatless Monday (until now)- more on this below.

There are new options- we can still work like American’s without eating like Americans. I’m referring to the processed foods and overall meat. With the onset of COVID-19 , I cut all egg products from my diet, a staple beforehand- viruses live off eggs and so did I. I don’t miss them- this is not to say if you raise your own hens or micro-farm it would not be viable. Also, being quarantined has kept me from succumbing to societal pressures- so thanks COVID. I tend to have better self-control at home than in a restaurant. Still, I buy ‘lean meat’: turkey, chicken, and salmon regularly; hence why I have some meat to deplete.  

You can’t call yourself an Environmentalist while eating meat.

It’s true, I am not an environmentalist… at least not yet- not in the proud sense that I want to declare to be. There is only one thing in this World that I care about more than myself. It’s nature and the future of this planet. There are mixed reviews, depending on which source you read, but the conclusion is animal agriculture is a leading- if not THE leading contributor to the climate crisis. It is massively responsible for the deforestation across our globe. Earth’s forests are IT’S LUNGS. It’s also responsible for 35-40% methane emissions- a greenhouse gas. And that’s just the basics.

Our current population growth and diet would require all of our land to be used in the production of meat, and even then a number of humans would starve. Sustainable living? NO, we cannot maintain the American diet, it is in DIRE need of change. Coincidentally, this is not new information. In fact, I was finding many studies, these studies started decades ago, all with the same conclusion- this diet is not sustainable (or healthy)… yet majority of us haven’t changed much.

“Under the report’s conclusions, meat and sugar consumption around the world should drop by 50 percent. Who eats less meat and where will vary, says Jessica Fanzo, a report author and professor of food policy and ethics at Johns Hopkins University. Meat consumption in the U.S., for instance, would have to go down and be replaced by fruits and vegetables. But other countries already facing poor nutrition could incorporate meat into roughly three percent of their diet.”

– Sarah Gibbens, National Geographic

Advancements in the industry

That being said the advancement in vegan/meat alternatives is growing. When it comes to meat alternatives- they are far beyond tofu. If you haven’t tried the Impossible Whopper- start there. You can’t get any more American than a fast food burger- and even that has been adapted perfectly. There is no reason to wait, the resources are here now and the longer it takes the less time Earth has to recover. As for me, I am turning my Meatless Monday into Meaty Monday and will only be eating meat once a week. I thought I was part of a movement- I was proud to reduce my meat footprint 1 out of 7 days, what a joke!

I’d be happier celebrating making a difference 6/7 days a week. My goal will be to transition to a fully plant-based diet. The truth is, sustainable living- doing all the things regularly are easily being cancelled out when I eat just ONE burger… and that’s without the cheese! Data varies* as to how much resources are used in the production of a single quarter pound patty, but it starts at 2 weeks’ worth of resources saved (up to 2 months). That’s it, I am becoming vegan. I will make a much larger impact on this planet by changing my diet and so can you!

*based on country of meat production.

Expectations for this step

This is the biggest change I can make, both in my own behavior and toward the climate change, at an individual level. I expect this will take time. However, I went from 106 bags of trash a year to under 6 in less than 12 months. I will obsess over this and I hope one of you reading this will, too. For me it started yesterday, when I got off work and decided to watch a documentary on Netflix- ‘What the Health?’ which I watched distractedly while scrolling on Instagram. I was then targeted to watch ‘Cowspiracy’. Then my attention was grabbed and I dove in.

I have been scouring the internet and fact checking ever since then. And while not all the data and information is accurate- take it with a bit of salt, as with most things there is a bias… it starts the intrigue as I hope this post can too. Another great documentary to check out is: The Game Changer. Please consider changing your diet… even if only on Monday’s.

In conclusion, all progress toward sustainable living is something to be proud of- but don’t go calling yourself an environmentalist or an ‘animal rights advocate’ while eating meat.

update:

I have been sitting on this post for 10 days now- nervous to publish. There are so many stigmas behind people like me- traveling, starting a blog, ‘finding themselves’, doing yoga, becoming vegan… etc. It is not lost on me. It makes me incredibly worried that I will come off disingenuine. The thing is travel, real long-term travel, inspires people. Disconnecting from this matrix societal playground and finding the wild world is incredible. It inspired me to focus on what really matters in this lifetime TO ME… and I chose to save Mama Natch. Because if you love to travel, then you MUST love this World. I am on day 9 of my new diet and it is going well. This will keep me accountable… cheese (Arrghh).

 

Kaitlin

A traveler who has allowed the World to show her that extreme posing beliefs are necessary to find the sweet spot that is revolutionary. Because life is too complex; it’s a balance of black and white; we need to blend the two so we can live in the grey space of an Open Mind. Currently finding a balance in exploring the World and being sustainable everyday.

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