Eating vegan is a surefire way to reduce your carbon footprint, and get a little healthier in the process. But is it easy to do? Can you just jump into it? Is it cost effective?
Three of our Planet Forward interns spent 10 days trying to live vegan in the city on college-student budgets. They found plenty of benefits, but also cost and inconvenience. Check out the video above for their reflections and the expert take on this carbon-friendly diet, then check out each of their final reflections below, along with a graphic on the big problem of going vegan on a budget: cost.
The Cost Of Going Vegan
When Planet Forward's interns went vegan, the big challenge was budget. On the slim budget of a college student, even small cost increases made a big difference; a $70 trip to the grocery store turning into a $140 trip wasn't something college students were happy to see. Here's two simple meals that cost a little more when you try to make them vegan-friendly:
Being a vegan is difficult. It’s difficult when you’re tired and don’t feel like cooking. It’s difficult when someone else is cooking for you. It’s difficult when you simply love food - and I love food. But it’s something you can get used to. Even after this challenge was over, I found myself cooking vegan meals for myself without even realizing it.
I think it’s important to remember the impact you have when you’re eating certain foods. So many people feel helpless when they think of climate change, and your diet is something you can have complete control over.
The biggest lesson I learned from this experience is something Jon Camp from Vegan Outreach said to us during his interview: veganism doesn’t have to been an all or nothing thing. I don’t think I can ever be strictly vegan, but it doesn’t mean vegan foods can’t be part of my life.
In elementary school my mom packed my lunch for me. The same thing: a sandwich with turkey and cheddar, almonds, and an apple. Every day. By the end of my school years I could barely look at a pink lady apple.
The monotony turned me off completely to apples and almonds and turkey sandwiches for at least the entirety of summer vacation. When undertaking the challenge of eating a vegan diet for 10 days, I expected the absence of dairy products to test me the most. Surprisingly, while that aspect didn’t prove too difficult, the monotony of meals tried my patience far more. By the end of the challenge, looking in my pantry depressed me. I ate the same thing for the hundredth time, not because I wanted to eat but because I felt I needed to.
If I were to ever try a vegan diet again I would plan ahead and have more options available. Otherwise the diet is not sustainable or exciting. Food should be fun and delicious; as a temporary vegan, food was reduced down to just a necessity to survive.
This project made me realize that, while being vegan is an admirable way to save animals and help the planet, it’s not for me.
In my opinion, there’s two ways you can go vegan. The first is having a diet that consists of things like peanut butter and jelly, where you eat lots of low cost carbs like pasta. The second way, which can take a lot of time and can be extremely expensive, is where you get creative and cook things like vegan meatloaf. I took a shot at eating the second way, and maybe the transition was just a shock, but I never felt full and I felt like I never had enough time to make an adequate meal. Not to mention some of the products I bought, like vegan cheese, meatballs, and butter, tasted atrocious.
Talking to people who have been vegan for years did make me rethink what I ate. I think something I can do is just try to eat less animal products. Eating red meat once a month and shrimp every once and a while may not give me a vegetarian label, but it still makes a difference compared to a person who eats meat daily. Someone shouldn’t be discouraged from eating less animal products just because they can’t completely cut them out. A person’s diet needs to be what’s right for them.