Sustainable Student Series: Imperfectly plant-based
This post is part of our Sustainable Student Series. A collection of stories, opinions, and experiences of Loughborough students on their journey to becoming more sustainable. Want to contribute? Email submissions to email@example.com.
Environmentalism didn’t concern me when I started University. I thought that if I just ignored the problem, it would go away. I was more concerned with socialising and passing my first year than I was with the impact my diet and life choices had. My attitude towards partying caught up with me after my first year. My decision to try a vegan diet was grounded in arrogance – I didn’t think anything would change, I was doing it for a laugh.
At first, I wasn’t eating right; no protein, no fats, and minimal carbs. I felt lethargic and tired all the time. No amount of black coffee would fix it. My girlfriend at the time looked up some better recipes with a balanced diet in mind and I started to feel better, much better. I didn’t want to admit to my friends that I was surviving a vegan diet – enjoying it even! I knew the ridicule I was receiving wouldn’t stop.
My Biological Sciences course highlighted the effects food production had on the environment, not just in greenhouse gas emissions, but also the use of antibiotics, disposal of waste, and the creation of dangerous monocultures – where infections can spread rapidly and possibly infect humans (think HIV, H1N1, Ebola, and more recently SARS-CoV-2 COVID19). I started to research more on my own and agreed with many of the ethics behind a lifestyle without animal products. I decided I wasn’t going back to meat. I didn’t need it and no longer wanted it. I missed the familiarity for sure, but I wanted to make a change.
I didn’t find that veganism was any cheaper or more expensive than a full diet. Chicken and beef were replaced with beans, pulses, and plenty of tofu. I also tried a lot of meat alternatives – alot. And they weren’t half bad! Especially the meat-free sausages. Cooking wasn’t much harder either, just different. My house-mates gave me a hard time, but I expected that it didn’t bother me anymore.
I joined the university American Football team in my final year. No one knew I was vegan at first. I told some during the team meal and was surprised to not be berated. They were interested, voiced concerns about not eating enough to support their active lifestyle. It felt good to share my experience with them, what I’d struggled with and my successes, what foods to try, and the ones to definitely avoid!
I realise veganism isn’t perfect. Creating a monoculture, using pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, and shipping these foods worldwide is still not sustainable. Nearly all aspects of my life aren’t sustainable, but I’m working on it.
Calum, Third Year Biological Science student
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