On a festive spring day last month, Orlando celebrated its 10th annual Central Florida Earth Day, an exciting day of fun and educational exhibits and vendors at Lake Eola Park downtown. A vegetarian restaurant, Dandelion Communitea Café, started this Central Florida Earth Day ten years ago which subsequently has been hosted by the group Vegans and Vegetarians of Central Florida. Over two hundred organizations came out to support as sponsors and vendors, including many Asian-American associations, such as our very own Asia Trend Magazine (one of the Garden Sponsors); Fo Guang Shan Guang Ming Temple 佛光山光明寺; Buddha’s Light International Association Orlando Chapter 國際佛光會奧蘭多分會 and Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Orlando branch 佛教慈濟基金會奧蘭多聯絡處.
Large crowds this year enjoyed lots of activities. The variety included live bands, acoustic music performances, puppetry and kids’ shows, yoga, qigong, recycling, arts and crafts, humane society talks, speakers on environmental activism, local initiatives to protect the environment and many others. All were well received.
This event highlighted how easy and fun it is to help the planet! One might wonder how can eating a vegetarian diet benefit the earth? It may surprise you that animal agriculture generates more greenhouse gases than cars, planes, trucks, boats, and all forms of transportation combined! Livestock generate over a third of human-induced methane gas and two thirds of nitrous oxide, both linked to climate change. Much land is used for livestock and the pasture needed to feed them – this is the major driver of deforestation. Diseases are rampant in the overcrowded factory farms, not to mention all that manure (pee-ew!) that pollutes the water and earth. Finally, as animals are ultimately less efficient in energy conversion than plants are, producing meat is always more energy intensive than plant-based foods. A kilogram of beef requires 43,000 liters of water to make! Seven times as much grain is used to feed cows as is used to feed humans in the US alone. And it’s not just land-based meat. Seafood is also dangerous for the environment – large fishing trawlers in the ocean overfish many species, and millions of other animals such as dolphins, whales and turtles get killed by nets every day. The alternative, farm-raised fish, generates a concentrated mess of feces that pollute the local water and often times, mass antibiotics for the fish are just dumped into the water, not something we want to get in the waterway!
There are many reasons that people are vegetarian. Many of the various Asian religions —Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese folk religions, etc. — have branches with strong vegetarian roots. But environmental protection is definitely a reason that anyone of any religion can agree with. At this event, we saw the huge impact that we can each take by eating less meat and less seafood, even going meat-free for just one meal every day, or just one day every week, can reduce one’s carbon footprint and environmental impact more than any other routine activity!
Let’s all take personal responsibility – change comes one person at a time. Let’s all be mindful of what we eat, and treasure our environment. Surely, we see that our choice to eat more plant-based foods and less meat is better for all of us – our health, our loved ones, and our planet.
Help save our planet for many generations to come. Embrace our interconnectedness and vow to make conscious choices. As simple as watching what we eat can make the world a better place. This writer and her family have been vegetarian for over two decades. Her own two sons, both Harvard honor graduates, have been vegetarian by choice their whole life.
A vegetarian diet can be a conscious choice to help the environment, but it can also easily be part of a healthy and happy life!