I would like to thank Daisy Yu and Ruth Almodal for their kind help on providing references for vegan foods, and alternative solutions to reduce waste.
I’ve recently watched two thought-provoking documentaries on Netflix called Seaspiracy (2021) and Cowspiracy (2014). Seaspiracy exposes the environmental consequences of commercial fishing. The narrator’s passion for preserving the oceans started with an investigation on microplastics and toxic waste dumped in the ocean, only to find that the real culprit is commercial fishing.
During the documentary, we follow the narrator whose goal is to schedule interview meetings with renowned charities and environmental agencies to ask them blunt questions about overfishing. He was met with disappointment and disillusion because the environmentalists chose to remain silent about this disturbing question. The narrator quickly realized that unwritten arrangements were made behind closed doors and shush money was powerful.
Throughout the documentary, he comments with horror and tears on the unregulated fishing rules at sea. The numbers showed that oceans were depleted at an incredible rate, and the fish population didn’t have enough time to reproduce in order to keep up with industrial fishing. In the end, the best help we could provide to the environment isn’t to eat more “sustainable” food (like eating certain species over others), but to stop eating seafood altogether until it is properly restored in the ocean.
Cowspiracy gave off the same message, except that it focused on the cattle industry. Most of the deforestation and pollution came from the methane produced by the cows and it’s causing greater damage to the environment than all transportations combined. Consuming dairy products is also damaging to the environment because raising cattle requires a lot of water. Both documentaries made me rethink my eating habits.
As consumers we are told that animal products are essential to our health. We are told that animal proteins helped us get strong, that dairy was essential to our bones and teeth, and that we needed to consume fish to improve our memory. When I grew up, school cafeterias in France never offered vegetarian options. For kids who didn’t want to eat meat due to their lack of kosher or halal properties, they were just served more vegetables or starch, but their diet wasn’t counterbalanced with another plant-based protein.
We are ill-informed about what is “healthy” because of old ideas that came from few hundred years ago and that are still persisting today. Back in the days, meat was scarce and expensive. It was a luxury to have access to it, so only few families could afford it. Meat was a symbol of power and wealth, which correlate to good health. It was engrained in our culture that eating meat meant you were well-off. Today, eating meat is perceived as essential to maintain that status. Unfortunately, some people view vegetarians as weak and feminine, whereas meat eaters are perceived as usually muscular and masculine. Breaking those codes is the first step to a better education for our future generation to make impactful changes to the environment.
Eating meat isn’t more manly, it leads to more inflammatory diseases. If you’re interested in reading more about it, I’d advise reading Proteinaholic by Dr. Garth Davis and Dr. Howard Johnson. My ethical concerns grew the more I worked in the lab and sacrificed mice and rats on a weekly basis. I read Animal Liberation by Peter Singer. There were many arguments to NOT eat meat at all. Upon reading it, you’ll ask yourself whether animals have rights in the end? Another good book I’d recommend is Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows by Melanie Joy. It’s really illogical that we care and have affection for certain species and have no compassion for others.
Now that I am more aware of the environmental and health damage of eating too much meat and fish, my first instinct was to find a way to propagate these messages to the greater public. I know that some parents may be reluctant to show these truth-revealing documentaries to their kids because of the violence, the blood and the torture, so how can we implement an effective program so our kids can make an educated choice about their diet later?
For some reason, parents keep their kids away from shocking images like animal abuse and torture in slaughterhouses. Keeping the fantasy about animals being raised in a happy farm was somewhat more important than talking about the real world.
To parents who want to make an impact on their kids’ education in teaching them about sustainable ways of living, here are some tips so you can show them where the food really comes from. Knowing that my blog readers are from all around the world, I’m giving out suggestions from different countries based on places that I have myself tried and/or friends’ recommendations.
Take trips to local farms instead of getting food at the grocery store
My friend from Colorado set up this beautiful website to give easy access to locally grown foods. His goal is to bridge the gap between farmers and communities. This platform, Laef, allows people to find their nearest farm and order fresh foods. It is also free for farmers, and all the money goes to their pockets. So far, farmers on this website are from Colorado but if you spread the word, the services may extend to the rest of the United States!
If you live in the city, get ugly fruits and vegetables delivered!
In Montréal, QC, we are familiar with Second Life, a company determined to reduce food waste. Most people discard “ugly” fruits and vegetables before they make it to the supermarket, although they’re fresh and edible. Second Life is committed to give them a second chance and send baskets delivered to your home. You can even choose organic baskets. The cheapest basket starts at $13 and there’s no commitment.
Apple picking during the Fall
Apple picking is so much fun, especially when it’s not too far from the city! At la ferme Quinn in Ile Perrot near Montréal, you get to walk around with a bag and fill it up with as many kinds of apples as possible. You’re also welcome to try the fruits, freshly picked from its tree.
Buy biodegradable products:
Few days ago, I recorded a live video on Amazon live with my friend Anya to promote “sustainable” products. They are not all perfect in their composition but we can easily switch our habits to buy biodegradable items instead of plastic ones. In the video, I also go over the stats of how much waste end up in the ocean, sewers, etc. I would recommend going through the products and see how you can change your purchases.
Here’s where you can find the link to the video:
Eat vegan (or at least vegetarian) as much as you can:
Choosing a vegan diet isn’t for everyone, but it’s the best solution to reduce CO2 and methane production. Raising cows is incredibly costly in water, food resources and land. I wouldn’t recommend the vegan diet for certain people due to health reasons, however if you’re open to try new flavors, you could get inspiration from these vegan recipes to reduce your animal product intake:
Cook vegan food as a family activity:
Kids enjoy being on their screens to relax and watch videos, how about introducing them to some fun videos to expand their minds and palets! Follow these youtubers and learn how to cook great vegan recipes:
If you’re into travelling and discovering new cities and countries, I would advise you to download the Happy Cow app to find the best vegan restaurants near your location, wherever you are in the world:
Recommended vegan restaurants:
Bon Taito, 1-2-11 Ryusen, Ueno, Asakusa
Shop fresh & local at farms:
Reduce food waste:
Recommended sustainable stores :
In conclusion, learning about sustainability doesn’t happen in one shot, it’s a life-long dedication that starts with compassion and caring. Kids are receptive to learning about preserving the planet as long as they see purpose and meaning in their endeavor. In North America, people are not as conscious of their carbon footprint as they should. There are very simple gestures we can encourage our kids to learn in order to create a healthy and more sustainable way of living. If we work towards preserving the planet and reducing waste, we ultimately care for each other and our health. This is also a good life lesson to learn, we want to leave as little litter as possible in the landfill and in the ocean because it affects the entire ecosystem.