November 12, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Olivia Hahnemann-Gilbert | Photo by Gracie Roe

Veganism has become a growing lifestyle choice in the United States and around the world. Surveys showed rapid growth in 2020, with one study estimating a 40% increase in vegans in the United Kingdom. 

At Colorado College, this rapid expansion in vegan diets is evident — meatless and animal product free meal options are offered by CC dining. For students, the reasons for going vegan are often multifold: one might go vegan because of environmental concerns, health considerations, or because of animal cruelty.

Eating a strictly vegan diet means avoiding all animal products and byproducts, from meat and milk. Some vegans even abstain from the consumption of honey.

Naturally, veganism does not work for many people. People with certain allergies, like the inability to consume nuts or gluten, might find it impossible to realistically eat a regular and healthy vegan diet. 

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, vegan diets can also be more expensive than traditional diets, depending on one’s preferences. For example, oat milk, almond milk, and other plant-based milks tend to be more expensive than cow’s milk. 

On the other hand, meat substitutes are cheaper than buying meat products. Thus, veganism can be more expensive, although it does not always have to be. Many students must navigate the terrain of CC dining to accommodate their vegan health habits, which doesn’t always prove to be easy: expense and access serve as important, limiting factors.  Eleanor Scheetz ’23 reflected on her days as a vegan on campus. 

“It was honestly so hard to be vegan at CC,” Scheetz said. “The options at Rastall’s were so plain — the flavor was nonexistent.” 

Scheetz relied heavily on off-campus food, which was difficult given the convenience of eating on campus on the meal plan (which is, as we know, required for all students living on campus). This ultimately ended up being the reason for Scheetz’s resignation from the vegan life.  

Despite the struggles of finding food on campus, “I was vegan for all of my first year at CC,” Scheetz said. “During that time, I felt so much cleaner and healthier. Just knowing about the health benefits also made me feel good.” 

According to Healthline, eating a nutritious plant-based diet can have positive health effects such as lowering blood sugar levels, lowering one’s risk for heart disease, and improving kidney function. As long as a person is careful to ensure they are getting all of the nutrients recommended by health professionals, veganism can be healthy and beneficial.

But why might other students go vegan?

As far as environmental concerns go, veganism may be one way to live more sustainably; however, this depends on which foods one consumes and how much of those foods one consumes. 

Meat production is known to have various large environmental impacts. Red meat production specifically produces significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has contributed to 30% of global warming since pre-industrial times. 

Avoiding meat and dairy has also been found to be much better for the environment than buying sustainable, organic alternatives. According to the Guardian, “Beef results in up to 105kg of greenhouse gases per 100g of protein, while tofu produces less than 3.5kg.” 

Other than the impact of a meatless diet, sources about the environmental impacts of veganism tend to be conflicting and confusing. The main takeaway seems to be this: depending on what you consume, veganism (according to the BBC) still is implicated in unsustainable agricultural and transportation practices which may negate some of the benefits of a vegan diet. . 

Many foods, such as asparagus, blueberries, and strawberries, are transported to several different areas around the world by air; this emits large concentrations of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Additionally, growing certain foods, such as avocados or almonds, requires a large amount of water.  

If one is mostly reliant on avocados for protein, the environmental impact might be greater than one would originally assume. In reality, folks probably don’t supplement their protein solely with avocados, but the point still drives home. To make a vegan diet, or any diet for that matter,  the most sustainable, it requires reducing your impact at every step of the food–to–table cycle.

Veganism can also be a way to protest animal cruelty. Many vegans use the diet as a way to take a personal stance against the factory farm complex, which has been implicated in ethical debates. 

Animals, like chickens, are often  crammed into small spaces and given antibiotics. Many feel that the confined spaces are inhumane and the antibiotics have also been linked to the spread of antibiotic resistant  “superbugs” in poultry. Overcrowding has also been linked to significant stress on the animals and reductions in meat quality.  

Students’ reasons for going vegan are numerous and some have managed to make their diets work in the face of CC dining.

“I have been vegan for two years now, and it really works for me,” a student, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

The student’s main reason for switching to veganism is because of animal mistreatment. 

Despite the presence of vegan options and the success of some students, Scheetz still thinks there is a long way to go. “CC prides itself on being environmentally friendly, and meat and dairy industries are very harmful to the environment,” she said. “It would be nice if the school were to take veganism as an environmentally-friendly option more seriously.” 

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