Today I want to make a statement. Something that really goes for me and my journey towards a sustainable lifestyle. In general, I’d say living an eco-positive lifestyle is not hard (maybe I can’t say that just yet, since I am not there yet, but I am doing it anyway). However, there are some aspects which I find way easier than others. Going vegan vs. stop traveling, I’ll tell you which one is easiest.
What is the most sustainable?
For Dutch people (and in other countries too), it has been calculated what part of their lifestyle is causing the biggest impact on the planet. This is true for the average Dutch person. As we know, there is no such things as an average person, everybody is different. That’s why this score may differ for every person. Like for me, traveling is the biggest part of my personal impact, my home is the second. But, for the average Dutch person the amount of new stuff they buy is causing the biggest impact. But here it comes, meat it second and other animal products are eighth in the list. That together makes a lot of impact.
Going vegan is easy
I want to state here today that my personal experience is really logical (this being that I find it hard to travel less but easily live vegan). I think going vegan is way easier than giving up traveling. So, if I were to give advice on how to start living sustainable in an easy way: go vegan. Especially in the time we’re living, 2020, this goes. If you go to any supermarket in The Netherlands, you can find vegan alternatives. That can be soy yoghurt or meat replacers, but that’s more luxurious food. Beans and plant milk are cheap and available everywhere.
Meat can be replaced with beans, tofu, seitan or tempeh. In the beginning it takes a little effort, but once you’ve made the switch and know what to buy and how to prepare meals, it’s not hard at all. Going vegan is the easiest thing I’ve personally done. It gets even easier at restaurants. Most restaurants have vegan options on the menu these days, even the cheap ones like Happy Italy. If you’re unsure, make a call beforehand and the job is done. It’s just about making different choices, in the supermarket and restaurants. It’s not like you stop eating, you can still enjoy good food.
Traveling less is hard
I think in 2020 it’s hard to stay at one place. Once you get a certain age you have to move for an education, that’s not available in every city. The same goes with work, you have to be really lucky to find your dream job in your own city, most people commute. Family moves, friends move. If you want to still see them, you can’t always ask them to come to you. And this is daily traveling. What about holidays? I am extremely spoiled and privileged, and so I want to travel and see different parts of the country and the world. This is not necessary, but it sure as hell is tempting. Iceland, Norway, Italy, they’re all on my list of places I’d like to see. And I am rich enough to go do it, so to entirely quit traveling would feel like a constraint.
A big part of this is age
And so, going vegan is about making different choices, to stop traveling is about giving things up entirely. I think that makes it hard for me personally. Traveling differently is a piece of cake for me (which is why I ditched the plane and travel by public transportation). Again, that’s about doing something different. Traveling less or stop entirely is something I find hard right now. I
think this has to do with my age too. I don’t have a full-time job yet, don’t have a house of my own, study at the other side of the country and have a long term relationship. If I’d live where I worked together with my boyfriend and would be done with school, that makes things easier. But, for now I’d say that going vegan is way easier than to stop traveling (and not to forget: the impact of going vegan is way bigger).
Disclaimer: I realize that I am extremely privileged. That’s why I sketched my reality. I am wealthy and living in The Netherlands. For people living in The Netherlands I’d say going vegan is easy in the end. Yet, I can’t speak for people from other countries. I don’t judge non-vegans. I hope to just share my point of view and give advice on what’s the best way to start an eco-positive lifestyle.
Which one do you think is easier when it comes to going vegan vs. stop traveling?
5 thoughts on “Going vegan vs. stop traveling”
The candor is great to see, Romee. Living sustainably is all about trade-offs, so if you can make adjustments in other parts of your life, or travel differently, there’s no reason why one shouldn’t travel.
I do have to ask though, when you say vegan, have you looked at where your vegan alternatives are coming from? Purely from an environmental point of view, going vegan can have some unintended consequences. For example, soy is usually imported in most countries. The environmental impact is never calculated at the point of consumption, but only at the source.
I read a paper recently that assessed the environmental impact of increased soy demand in Brazil, which is the largest exporter of soy. It’s an interesting read (here’s the full paper: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378019308623?via%3Dihub. If you want a short summary, you can read this: https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/china-and-eu-appetite-for-soy-drives-brazilian-deforestation-climate-change-study/)
High demand for soy is driving deforestation in Brazil, particularly in northern Brazil. Some may argue that in Germany or Spain or Finland (which imports the largest soy in the EU and has the greatest impact), it may be more sustainable to have local meat/fish than to switch to vegan and have imported soy. This circles back to your point about trade-offs.
(Of course, if your vegan alternatives are sourced locally, then it would be better than meat.)
Keen to hear your thoughts on this.
Hi Saurab, it’s been scientifically calculated that a plant-based diet is always more sustainable than a diet with animal products. If you want to learn about that, you can read the book Hidden Impact by Babette Porcelijn. Even if I would eat soy all day (which I don’t and would not recommend haha), a plant-based diet is more sustainable than one with animal products.
Eating local meat in The Netherlands increases deforestation in Brazil, because cows mostly eat soy. And that soy is imported from Brazil. Over 90% of the soy grown in Latin-America is fed to livestock. Soy is the reason of deforestation, yes, but almost all of it goes to livestock. The soy used for tofu and other meat replacements is often grown in Europe and doesn’t contribute to this deforestation (especially if you buy organic!).
From all animal products I can understand why you also mention fish. You would think that fish don’t eat soy. But farmed fish also eat a lot of soy, this just makes them grow faster. If you would eat wild fish I guess there is no problem with deforestation there, but since scientist predict that the oceans will be empty within the coming decades, I would say that is a terrible option too.
But I think you’re still right in the fact that even vegan food can be harmful. One example is palm oil. This is vegan but also causes deforestation (is a lower amount than soy, but still). We should always stay critical. Vegan local and seasonal food is always a good option! If you want to learn more about this, please check out my post on How to Eat sustainable: http://whenateengoesgreen.com/2019/06/10/how-to-make-sustainable-food-choices/.
Thanks for your reply and I hope this helps you!
Hi Romee, thanks for the detailed reply!
“Eating local meat in The Netherlands increases deforestation in Brazil, because cows mostly eat soy.”: I didn’t think of this! You’re right, when we consider meat, we also need to consider the feed produced for the livestock (I keep asking people to look at lifecycle emissions but I missed that here. Sigh).
“The soy used for tofu and other meat replacements is often grown in Europe and doesn’t contribute to this deforestation (especially if you buy organic!).”: Are there any studies or references you can point me to, for this? I’m curious, why would livestock feed be imported but the same product grown in the continent not used? Is it just that Europe can’t produce sufficient quantities?
“You would think that fish don’t eat soy. But farmed fish also eat a lot of soy, this just makes them grow faster.”: Hmm, I’ve never heard of this. I will read up on this.
“If you would eat wild fish I guess there is no problem with deforestation there, but since scientist predict that the oceans will be empty within the coming decades, I would say that is a terrible option too.”: Oh, of course. Wild fish is a huge problem and shouldn’t be encouraged in any way. Picsiculture in man-made lakes, for example, would probably be a more sustainable option. I’ve read of cases where farm ponds used for recharging the groundwater have doubled as fish farms to boost local livelihoods. Not the best option, but way better than fishing in the ocean.
Palm oil, unfortunately, has become a necessary evil. I suppose the initiation of RSPO is a step in the right direction, hopefully it can curb deforestation. I don’t see the world letting go of palm oil anytime soon.
I will check your post out, thanks 🙂
I have read that in a book once of twice, but I am not sure if I can find it back. I am going to library today to check! What I know is that soy from Latin America for livestock is GMO-soy. GMO-soy is forbidden in the EU for human consumption so that’s why tofu and other products can’t be made from that soy.
People are really trying to come up with sustainable ways to grow fish and other livestock, but I think we shouldn’t do so since a plant-based diet is already a great solution. The vegan products out there are delicious and amazing already!