News from the UC Sustainability Office

A plant-based diet for the environment?

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VCUC is the University of Canterbury’s vege club. VCUC is a student club for people interested in animal rights, environmentalism, and plant-based diets. They discuss the importance of adopting a less meat- and dairy-based diet – and how to make that shift! By VCUC. 

CO2 output of animal agriculture is massive

After reading an article by The Guardian shared by the UC Sustainability Community, about reducing the consumption of animal products to help save the world from climate change, we got quite excited because VCUC is all about eating more plant-based.

There is some debate about the exact numbers of greenhouse gases produced by the animal agriculture industry. However, animal agriculture is still a bigger contributor than any other human related activity, including all forms of transport (planes, container ships etc.). We also cannot forget it is the biggest use of fresh water and land, creates the most waste, deforestation and extinction than any other human activity.

Based on 2008 NZ data. Photo Science Media Centre

Based on 2008 NZ data. Photo Science Media Centre

Small steps, big effects

How can you help? Often environmental problems are posed to us as something too big or complex for you to make a change. But there are many small choices made every day that can make a difference. VCUC has some helpful tips.

Many members of VCUC live and thrive off a plant-based diet. Many plant-based diets consist of staples such as fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes. Many find the thought to change to a plant-based diet overwhelming to do overnight and that is normal. A long term method is to slowly reduce your consumption of animal products while simultaneously increasing the number of plant-based foods. For example, swapping meat for beans, in say nachos is an easy option. (Check out this great wee video for a quick nutritional comparison of meat vs. beans!) Other people adopt a plant-based day once a week or incorporate one plant-based meal a day. Try what works for you and remember every plant-based meal is a great achievement and it is never too late to start.

Cheap and easy

A lot of plant-based foods are the cheapest a student can buy in New Zealand. Buying grains (e.g. oats, rice), long shelve life starches (e.g. potatoes, kumara etc.) and legumes can be very cheap. You can buy them bulk and in their dried form (for legumes) for a much cheaper deal. We all know that fruits and vegetables are the healthiest food for us to consume and there are a number of ways to get them cheap:

  • Buy seasonal and ask the shops if they do deals on bulk buys
  • Do not forget the frozen section for bags of fruit and vegetables
  • Explore the weekendimg_1685-small markets (Riccarton, Opawa, Lyttelton, ect.)
  • Check out vege box schemes in Christchurch (just google it for options). Sharing it with your flatmates makes this a cheap option
  • Many fruits and vegetables can be frozen if you have surplus and can’t eat them all before they go off
  • Fruit can be foraged for free, keep your eyes out for trees around the city to pick from. (Make sure you are allowed to do so.)
  • Community gardens are a great place for cheap vegetables. If you volunteer at UC’s community gardens you can take some vegetables home for free!
  • There are also co-ops where you pay a set price for a box of fruit and vegetables, that often gets delivered. Check out vege box schemes in Christchurch (just google it for options). Sharing it with your flatmates makes this a cheap option. Salt and Light is the University one.

And finally, the least environmentally detrimental way is to grow your own. You will be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space, plus you could sell or trade the excess! Get in contact with UC Kakariki for some tips.

A plant-based recipe: Easy bean fajitas

Ingredients

  • 1 can No Fat Refried Beans
  • 1 can Low Sodium Pinto Beans
  • ¼ cup Salsa
  • 1 Onion, sliced into strips
  • 1 Bell Pepper, sliced into strips or other vegetables of your choice
  • 2 teaspoons Fajita Spice Mix (below)
  • Tortillas

Fajita Spice Mix

  • 1 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Drain and rinse the pinto beans.
  2. Add salsa and refried beans and simmer until warm.
  3. Whisk all Spice Mix ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Stir-fry onion, pepper (vegetables), and 2 tsp of Spice Mix in water
  5. Continue stir-frying until liquid evaporates and veggies begin to brown
  6. Assemble fajitas by placing beans in center of tortilla.
  7. Add stir-fry veggies and toppings of your choice.
  8. Roll and enjoy!

We understand that there are still many things left untouched in this blog and you are more than welcome to contact us at vegclubofuc@gmail.com or our Facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/groups/ucvegclub/ https://www.facebook.com/ucvegclub/ for any questions you have or for more information.

This message was brought to you by the UC Sustainability Office. Connect with us through Facebook or Instagram. Or email us: sustainability@canterbury.ac.nz

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Author: Puck Algera - UC Sustainability Office

Puck worked at the Sustainability Office at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. As the Sustainability Projects Coordinator, she kept busy with student and staff engagement, providing strategic input and advice and organising sustainability-focused events.

One thought on “A plant-based diet for the environment?

  1. Sounds delicious! Will be making this recipe this week

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