Graphic of Earth with continents and trees. Credit: Olivia Frazier / Mustang News

Zoie Denton is an English junior and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

I went vegetarian in my sophomore year of high school, I barely remember why I took the leap but I remember feeling like I was doing something important. Learning about the positive environmental impacts vegetarians have pushed me to become more conscious about what I eat. The more I learned about how much water I was saving and the animals I was protecting I felt vindicated in my choice. So, I kept at it. 

However, now I’m questioning whether my choice is really affecting the world around me. If I think about the seemingly infinite negative effects that major corporations have on the Earth, I often am left feeling completely helpless. How do I know I am actually making any difference at all? 

In an attempt to reassure myself, a few months ago I started to go vegan. I have been struggling to maintain this, but again that mantra remained in my head that I am being more environmentally conscious by doing this. (Another factor that influenced my newfound veganism was learning about the unethical dairy farming practices used for almost every common dairy project.)

I want to preface this inquiry by saying that I believe veganism is a revolt against our current society and its institutions, such as the common practices of dairy farming. This way of living is a conscious effort to make noise, and influences people to question their own choices – which inspires an attentiveness to living that the general population desperately needs. 

Regarding the environmental ramifications of veganism, I can confidently say that no one way of living is inherently better than another. The most consistent information I found in my research was that there are a multitude of ways to practice environmentalism, but you’ve got to pay attention.

While veganism can create a community and political solidarity, going vegan is not inherently better for the planet. People may assume that because of the toll meat based diets take on the environment’s CO2 levels, a plant-based diet must be the solution. However, any form of large scale farming is going to negatively impact the environment. 

A large part of a plant-based diet often contains soy, which is frequently grown on deforested land. Because of this it can’t be guaranteed that a vegan diet is cruelty-free, as animal habitats are lost through this practice. 

These facts are not presented to dissuade anyone from starting a vegan diet, friendly reminder I am trying to go vegan myself. I did, however, want to ensure that people make conscious and smart decisions about their diets if they want to help the environment. 

A truly environmentally friendly diet consists of locally-grown food and products that are created as ethically as possible. 

Regardless of your current diet I implore you to research, even just for a day, where all the food you eat is coming from. As students, as teachers, as people, we need to start paying more attention to our endless consumption. A small but important way to do this is to support small local farms, grow your own food (even if it’s just herbs), try to consume less dairy (it really isn’t good for us anyway), and don’t discount anyone for trying to do what they can. 

Being vegan isn’t feasible for everyone, but frankly it is much more accessible than I thought it was going to be. And while I’ve established that being vegan isn’t inherently better for the environment, making this conscious choice can go a long way to paving a way toward a more sustainable way of life as a society.