My Journey to Save Mother Earth Through Meatless Veganism

This post is written by my engineering business partner Karl Friesen.  You can check out his site for more information on him and the services KFAA Engineering offers.

Karl has contributed to the blog before with a post titled; Hand Washing Dishes vs Using a Dishwasher and will be contributing more posts in the future.

Although we are business partners and have many overlapping areas of intertest and skills we are wired a bit differently, a ying yang kind of thing.

As you read this post please remember this is his journey not mine.  I still eat fish but other than that I eat a plant based diet. I'm am not 100% vegetarian, 

Diversity of opinion and lifestyle is something I invite because it opens up conversations for change and growth, so without no further adieu here is Karl's journey into meatlessness...

Does Going Vegan Help Save the Environment?

I want to share my vegan aka meatless from a typical meat-filled diet for all three meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day to a diet that is more sustainable. This one action can have a greater positive impact on the planet than just about anything you can do. Except perhaps my choice to go child-free, which is indeed a greater footprint reduction you can contribute to benefit of your fellow man. Avoid adding one or more mouths to feed, clothe and consume over a lifetime, is also not a bad decision to make if you would like to ‘do your bit’ to save good old mother earth.

How Going Vegan Can Help Save Your Life

This whole vegan idea first came to me from my wife who was trying to play the ‘save the planet card’, to help me lose some weight, and get healthier. Our initial thought was to start with the ‘meatless Monday’ approach and see if we could establish a routine one day per week meat-free. Then we thought we could always ratchet that up to a second day each week, once we ‘had this down’.  As a part of her ‘get me healthy scheme’ she showed me a documentary that had stories about a bunch of people who were able to get off their high blood pressure and cholesterol medicines, as well as lose weight eating a ‘plant-based diet’. My doctor has been pressing me to start taking these sort of medicines and I had resisted for a couple of years.

Being a typical guy, I did not want to start down that slippery big pharma cocktail route. Not the least of which for fear of the dreaded male impotency side effects.

How the 100% Veganism route worked for me

After seeing the success of so many people in this documentary, I was hooked. We bought up all the latest and greatest ‘fake meat’ option products on the market and began our new plant-based lifestyle.

First, there were the fake meat hamburgers on the grill, leading to grilled meatless hamburgers smothered with sauteed mushrooms, then we tried them layered with A-1 steak sauce, and of course, then marinated in Worcestershire sauce.

Then of course we gobbled up spaghetti with fake ground beef hamburger added, then spaghetti with fake hamburger meatballs, and spaghetti with fake meat spicy Italian sausages. All very tasty. Naturally, we ordered take out which were all vegetarian based, from Chinese food, Vietnamese food, Thai food, as well as vegan pizzas. I found out I really liked an eggplant based Thai dish at one of our favorite local restaurants, and I also thought I did not like eggplant. Given the impacts of Covid-19 on our local small restaurants, we were more than happy to do our bit to support these struggling businesses.

What Was Our Vegan Diet?

And of course, we made all sorts and types of salads from green salads using every sort of lettuce, and garbanzo bean-based salads and snacks including tubs of hummus. Hummus with chips, hummus with celery, cauliflower, and carrots. Taco Tuesday became meatless taco Tuesday substituting iceberg lettuce for the taco shells and meatless hamburger for ‘the meat’.

For the four months before my upcoming annual physical and annual blood workup, we stuck to this vegan-based formula despite that at times, it seems like somewhat monotonous and common tasting dishes. There just seemed to be only so many ways to make lettuce taste different. My wife being an outstanding cook could only do so much to vary the tastes. With me always chipping in as the always present ‘sous-chef’ and clean-up specialist and meatless burger grill cook.

Can My Health Improve Going Vegan?

After all this vegan eating, I was so excited to visit my doctor to ‘show her’ I didn’t need these modern chemical cocktails to stay healthy and virile into my middle age. What a shock, my blood pressure was through the roof and my cholesterol had never been higher. All those months eating meatless meals that do not taste like meat, all for nothing on the health front. Sure, I contributed to saving the planet. I could blame my poor results on the pandemic which has kept me from playing hoops and lift weights 5 days per week.

You Can Still Help Save The Planet Even If You Are A Partial Vegan?

So, I was at a crossroads, do I double down on the vegan lifestyle and just continue to work on saving the planet? Or do I pick up the pieces and try to figure out and forge my own new and unique path balancing taste with the planet? Pondering this question for about 2 minutes (maybe it was 30 seconds), I decide I like steaks, chicken, pork, lamb, venison, buffalo, and elk meat too much, but I still need to reduce my impact on our planet. What better choices can I make to do this and get my medical vitals down using another method?

How Veganism impacts Climate Change?

I envisioned there had to an alternative, that if we can get others to go this route, we could have a much bigger impact than simply me going vegetarian. I believe we can save our planet while at the same time allowing all of us to eat a varied diet that includes meat. But first, to help figure this out, let’s consider why eating meat has such a huge impact on the globe. First, for the most part, our meat is raised in a very energy/resource-intensive manner. Energy-intensive farming to raise all the corn, hay, grains, and other foodstuffs to feed these animals is extraordinary.

This is done to keep the costs down to feed animals from infancy to the slaughterhouse. These energy inputs include oil to run the machinery to plow, fertilize, harvest, and truck these foods to the feedlots. Plus, the energy needed to create the fertilizers themselves and to truck animals to the slaughterhouse and operate the slaughterhouses. And let us not forget the cost to keep these meats cold, or frozen from the storage, grocery store, and your home. All just so we can eat steaks, burgers, chicken wings, ham sandwiches, and pepperoni pizza at our convenience.

Low-cost subsidized energy is fueling low-cost feedlot produced meat

Meat production seems so low cost and affordable since all this input energy is exceptionally low cost. Low cost because the cost of exploration and production (government tax-subsidized), defending (military costs to protect energy assets and shipping lanes), and the long-term impacts from air pollutants and CO2 are simply not being charged to the kWh of electricity or gallons of oil we buy. Instead, all these costs are pushed out for future generations to deal with and pay for solving.

Will Being a Partial Vegan Help Save Mother Earth?

So naturally, reducing the amount of meat we eat in any way possible is quite impactful to our planet. So, if going 100% veganism was not palatable, I figured a good compromise could be to go back to just the one, two-, or three-days meatless days per week plan might be my best middle ground. So, we have incorporated mini celebrations like Meatless Mondays, or Meatless Taco Tuesdays or football games with a meatless snack can be fun.

Meatless meals with proper spices are our friend – and we don’t feel so stuffed

And with all the green chiles, salsa, taco seasonings, and hot sauces the meatless hamburgers for tacos or the nacho makes these dishes taste a lot more like hamburgers. The same can be said for spicy dishes such as Asian stir fry or ramen soup. Plus, an added benefit I’ve found as well is that after ‘stuffing’ yourself with tacos, nachos, or taco salads, if I’ve eaten too much and feel ‘stuffed’ too full, the feeling seems to go away much quicker with these vegan dishes.

Buy Locally Raised and Free-Range Organic Meats 

Now that we have taken a good-sized bite out of the volume of meat by going several days a week vegan, how can we continue to lower our impact on our planet? After digging around I tried my best to buy/eating local farm, grass-fed, cage-free animals when I can. This has the dual impact of supporting our local neighbor farmers and ranchers which improves your local economy and culture. And also contributes to a more cruel free animal life expectancy.

But also, this can reduce the energy input per steak eaten, or chicken wing devoured. These animals tend to be raised with less energy-intensive foodstuffs, like grass and locally grown hay, plus do not require the gas-guzzling trucking from some distance destination. Is flying in lobster from Maine or Wagyu beef steak from Japan or New Zealand necessary?

Buy from fresh produce markets

We always enjoy the variety of foods and people we encounter at fresh produce and farmers' markets. Every town or county has a guide to where and when their farmer’s markets are for you to explore. Plus, when on vacation, we seek out local farmers' markets to support local farmers there as well. If I have flown to the destination, this in some small way lessens the impact and reduces my guilt for having flown, to begin with, by balancing in some small way the huge impacts from flying.

Locally raised, organic free-range animals are healthier for you to eat

Eating locally raised, range-fed, or cage-free animals are more healthier foods. Feedlot raising of animals requires large doses of antibiotic that are harmful to our bodies and are energy-intensive to manufacture. When raising animals in such dense concentrations as feedlots, diseases are transmitted much more easily, so dosing the animals up with these pharmaceuticals is a must to keep the animals healthy enough to be slaughtered for our consumption. When we eat feedlot raised meats these chemicals are directly introduced into our bodies, compounding the medical problems of disease-resistant pathogens that are plaguing our hospitals today.

Plus, much research has proved that animals raised in these stressful, crowded, inhuman feedlot settings, which not only is not to be a pleasant existence for these animals, but these stressful conditions introduce stress-related toxins into the animal’s bloodstreams. Toxins are also transferred into our bodies as we eat these meats. It has been shown that stress causes illnesses and increased disease in humans. Why isn’t this also true with how these animals are raised? Their stress toxins are bad for human health.

Don’t Waste Food to Save Mother Earth

These steps alone have roughly cut my earth impact from eating meat at every meal in about half.  What else can I do from here? Well for one, I try my best not to waste food. Saving ‘left-overs’ for lunch, or many times we have a combined ‘left-overs’ smorgasbord dinner each week. By doing this we make sure we neither add more waste to the ‘landfill’ but also by not throwing away such an energy/resource-intensive food product we avoid having to purchase additional meals.

Organic composting of food waste food does help save the planet

What in the end turns out to be waste we compost in one of two manners? Vegetable waste is placed along with leaves and other yard debris into our on-site composter purchased from the local government recycling organization, Metro. In another blog post, I will explain more in detail exactly how easy this composing process can be for you. This composter creates fresh clean vibrant soil I use to ‘liven up’ areas of our yard in need of a nutrient boost. This source of soil is so full of nutrients for plants, each year I target 2-3 areas of the yard in need of a boost, based on last year’s observations about plant stunted growth.

Organic composting of feed waste does help - a lot

Not only do I not need to buy special soils from the lawn and garden shop, but this composted soil also allows me to dramatically reduce the application of fertilizers to maintain plant health. These special soils and fertilizers are both very energy and resource-intensive to produce. But once distributed much of the chemicals in these purchased products simply wash away with the rains and end up in local streams, rivers, and lakes.

Once in these waterways then increase nitrogen and other chemicals to levels that directly harm/stunt/kill wildlife and increase the cost to local governments to eliminate them. The conditions created by these chemicals impact local summer water activities hampered by algae blooms and other toxic algae impacts. These blooms also force cities around the country and the globe yearly rationing of summer water supplies and costly remediation. Even in heavy rain, clean water locations like Salem, Oregon, the state capital, has had to enforce water boil and water shut offs for the last several years from these impacts.

Local governments recycling programs help as well

We recycle our animal by-product waste by placing it in the garbage company provided yard debris bins, which the locally contracted garbage company uses to make compost. The compost they turn into another profit center by selling it back to the public for their yards or to local farmers for use on their organic produce farms. This is a very convenient way to compost all your waste if you do not have your composter to utilize.

If your municipality does not offer such a service, they can with a little push from you and other citizens who want to do their own small but impactful bit for the globe. The organization that serves my home is one of the largest nationwide garbage hauling firms. These organizations have the expertise to make this happen for your town/county as well. If you are served by a smaller local firm, the knowledge and expertise are available for them to pattern their operations after.

Let’s Go Out and Save Mother Earth Together

I estimate that through these recycling/composting efforts on our food waste, we are roughly up now to perhaps 60-70% of the impact reduction of our having gone to a full vegan. I can certainly live within these constraints. Now from here, I continue to look to improve further in this area as well as other areas of my life.

Better Choices for Better Living – there is no Planet B.

Better choices for better living are a smart balanced approach, which can create a pathway to achievable planetary impacts so we all can make ‘to do our bit’. Taking first one step, then a second, and then a third, etc., is a path to success we can all live with and succeed at for a better future. Perhaps next I will increase the frequency and length of my backpacking into the wilderness vacations, so I skip one out of the area plane flight annually. Or perhaps walking to the store once or twice a week more than I currently do. Stay tuned for these and other ideas as I share with you my experiences following through on ideas to reduce my impact on our only planet. Since there is no Planet B.