The Plant-Based Diet: Who’s Doing It, Why It Works


Megan Dobransky contributed to this article.

I decided to write this article for our partner Silk, because I’m vegan.

Vegan — the word comes with a lot of baggage. You get the instant concept of “rabbit food” or perhaps various radical stylings, but rarely do you get the whole truth.

Before I delve too deeply, let me make a little disclaimer. Vegan is a label, one used to easily identify a set of choices, but still, a label, and nothing more. My definition of vegan may be different than yours, so for the purpose of clarity, let’s get on the same page.

Vegan is most commonly defined as a person who does not consume, purchase or use animal products. As an example, I don’t wear leather, wool or silk, I don’t eat whey or honey, and I don’t buy products that test on animals.

The reasons behind being vegan vary as much as the acts themselves. Some are about animal rights, others about the environment, while a vast number do it for weight control.

From Oprah to Ellen, celebs have recently been talking about, exploring and even encouraging people to pick up the plant-based way of life, which includes veganism and vegetarianism, for a variety of reasons. For our purposes, I’ll focus on the environment.

A Plant-Based Diet Is Better for the Environment

Soy, almond and coconut milks are all staples of the plant-based diet. According to Silk, “making a half gallon of Silk takes 80% less water than a half gallon of dairy milk.” That’s around 14,000 gallons of water saved per year if one U.S. household switched from milk to Silk.

Plant-based diets also tend to have a smaller CO2 footprint than meat-centric diets. A University of Chicago study found that the typical U.S. diet produces almost 1.5 more tons of CO2 per year than a strictly vegetarian diet, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels during food production.

Producing a half-gallon of Silk generates 65 percent fewer greenhouse gases than the production of the average half-gallon of milk.

It goes beyond CO2 emissions. According to a 2008 article in the New York Times, “assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains….”

As one can see, the environmental benefits of the plant-based diet add up, but what about the dreaded elephant in the room: will power?

As any seasoned vegan will tell you, starting off slowly is key. In fact, the end goal doesn’t have to be being vegan at all. The goal can be simply to make some different choices, once in a while.

How To Ease into a Plant-Based Diet

Get Started: How to Order Vegetarian While Dining Out

The same University of Chicago study says that even if you cut down from two hamburgers a week to one, you’re still making a huge difference.

Or do something just as simple, like joining the Earth Day Network’s Meatless Mondays movement. Just pledge to not eat meat one day a week. If it works for you, you might try two days a week. And you can feel good that you’re reducing your carbon footprint by eating less meat.

The Silk website has tons of plant-based recipes that really make a person feel excited about trying something new. And the Earth Day Network’s Foodprints for the Future website has resources including plant-based life hacks, foodprint calculators, and infographics that encapsulate the benefits of a plant-based diet.

“Most Americans think ‘eat more vegetables’ when they hear ‘plant-based.’ In fact, they’d be surprised to know that great-tasting foods like soymilk, almond milk and coconut milk count as a way to get more plant-based foods into your diet,” said Andrea Carrothers, MS, RD, nutrition communication manager at WhiteWave Foods.

Already a Silk fan? Try new recipes and check out the following amazing resources. Try to make one vegan meal a week, then every few days, then every day, then … okay, I won’t push my luck.

Feature image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

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  1. There are so many compelling reasons to go vegan: ethics, emissions reduction, health etc. I’m often promoting the diet through the blog, as it is one of the most ‘go green’ actions anyone can incorporate into their lifestyle. And it’s doable!

  2. If you have not guessed, I am the author’s father. OK, this is not going to be unbiased, but it is from my truth.

    I am 60 and LOVE to eat. I am certainly not a vegan, but I do LOVE the taste of Almond milk. I also love ice cream sandwiches and my favorite are Tofutti Cuties which are great. Mexican food I can eat every day. Presently my favorite is a Tofu taco combo from El Topo.

    How did I get started, Raquel prepared a corn dog for me, another one of my favorites. It had a stick and everything. Made by MorningStar, I guarantee you will Love it. I want to say that this food is extremely tasty!! Over the years, I have tried different items, one at a time, and have found that it is as good as the old school ingredients, but better for your body and you can have two or three.

    My first concern is taste. Now I know that I can get great taste, eat food that is helping me grow, even at 60, and helping my environment. Wow, what a life.

    Who is doing this? Me

    Why does it work> Because it tastes really good.

  3. Not that I don’t appreciate you sharing your opinion on something you personally believe in I have to disagree with this argument, and point out this was less an article and more of an advertisement.

    I believe in making the world a better place and environmentally more sound. I also think that my eating meat has its place beside those who choose not to. There have been studies of prairie-turned-desert being turned back into prairies because of livestock. They moved the cattle around in pattern of traditional migrating patterns and the land became lush and green again (green for an area that is very hot all the time, anyway). But the people who did this would not have done it if they didn’t also eat the cattle. Owning and raising livestock can also help the environment. And overly large farms growing soy fields do not help the environment. This can be detrimental and is not sustainable.

    Thanks for the article


  4. Going vegan is NOT “doable” for everyone. Fruits and veggies are VERY expensive, and in many parts of the country, including mine, Connecticut, farmers’ markets are seasonal, so going vegan is “doable” only for those with the financial wherewithal to afford them.

    I absolutely HATE soy milk. (To me, it tastes like crap; I guess it’s an acquired taste.) However, I DO like almond milk, and, admittedly, I haven’t had it in a while. Maybe I should start getting it again, although it’s a bit on the pricey side, too.

  5. I forgot to mention that I suppose I could grow at least some of my own veggies, but that’s seasonal, too, and I’m not a canner.

  6. As long as you are using organic soy it is good for the environment.Monsanto soy is sprayed with insecticide and pollutes our creeks and rivers as well as our water supply.

  7. I like this article. I was a junk food everyday eater and now I’m slowly off all of that. It truly and surprising was so easy. Yes easy. It happen so nonchalantly, I had no goal, no title that I was motivated to. I’m not a vegan or vegetarian, but now, I don’t care about eating meat. I’m really don’t like veggies, but now I do. One day, I decided to cut down soft drinks, then in time, I like water. Same with all the other foods. Just keep deciding to cut down on this, then that, then I looked back it was shocked! That’s the first part. You might ask what I eat now: I will gladly answer that, but I’m out of time now, and it will take a longer format than this. Just what to tell Raquel, keep telling the world. There are more of us out there truly enjoying your message as is. Thank you.

  8. It doesn’t matter if it is organic soy and pesticide free. That makes it the lesser of two evils, but not good. The environment needs biodiversity. Having one plant that covers acres and acres of land pushes other plants out and can be detrimental to animals that live in the area. All it would take is one plant disease and there would be no more soy. Nature has a way around that with biodiversity. Plants should be allowed to change, grow, evolve. I don’t mind helping it along but cultivating what I want to eat but the amount this is grown in is very bad.

  9. I have to say I enjoyed this article, but I also agree with Tori. Plants are vicious life forms as well, and they can definitely cause harm to animals (and do so on a regular basis aka: population control). I’m totally with veganism but there can’t be one or the other in terms of lifestyle, but happy medium between the two.
    Regardless, begin Vegan is great way to help the environment and animals alike. Great article!

  10. Thanks Raquel for the article, it is important that more and more awareness be generated about the environmental benefits to plant based diets as you discuss. As a society in general we should all try to move closer and closer to a plant based diet.

    Going totally vegan can actually help the body heal from many diseases! This is something not many people are aware about. Google Dr. Joel Furhman and his book Eat to Live for more information.

  11. I think that most people could benefit from a more plant-based diet, and that almost everyone would do better if they didn’t consume as many processed foods.

    I don’t think that eating large quantities of soy is healthy though. The meat substitutes made out of soy are often highly processed and not the best choice. (Like anything, moderation is the key.)

    I haven’t found being a vegetarian to be expensive at all (I’m not a vegan though). I don’t buy meat, and I don’t buy very many processed veggie products, so I don’t need to spend a whole lot on food. When fresh produce is too expensive, I like to buy bags of frozen and use it in smoothies and stir-frys. (I’ve been known to eat frozen mangos though!)

  12. I’m interested in where the soybeans are grown for soymilk. Are they organic, are they sustainably grown without the destruction of sensitive ecosystems (e.g. rainforest, prairie)? Are they GMO? What about the transportation costs for bringing soymilk to areas that don’t have readily available sources of soy (and of course the opposite, what are the transportation costs for bringing meat/dairy/eggs to those same areas)? I’m also interested in the back and forth debate I keep reading regarding getting all the necessary B-vitamins in one’s diet as a vegan. What are readily available, non-processed, sources of plant-based B-vitamins? I eat locally and seasonally, including locally raised and butchered meat, dairy products, and eggs. They’re certified organic and free range. How does this type of animal food source compare in greenhouse emissions, fuel useage, and water consumption to soy-based alternatives? It’s very hard to find studies that break down all the factors and present them in an objective science-based manner. Issues of morality and what feeel right are different for everyone out there, but science-based and scientifically defendable research and data are irrefutable. If there are any such studies out there, please post them… I’d love to read them and have a better understanding of what the true costs are.

  13. That’s a very interesting stat on Silk soy milk. I didn’t even consider the amount of water saved used in the production of regular milk compared to soy.

    My 1-year old has a milk allergy so we are using silk now. Not much different, just a little sweeter. Good to know we are helping with water consumption!

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