The Environmental Stewards have begun a student-written weekly journal to spread awareness about St. Andrew's sustainability work. This entry was written by Daisy Wang ’25 and Abigail DelValle ’26.
What does being a vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian mean?
Being a vegan (abstain from eating all animal products), vegetarian (abstain from eating all meat), and pescetarian (abstain from eating all meat excluding fish) is a substantial effort in conserving the world we live in. By consuming less meat and animal products, one wastes less land and water, produces less greenhouse gases and environmental pollution, and improves personal sustainability. For example, in its 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than all cars and trucks in the world combined. In addition, being vegetarian for only a year saves the same amount of carbon emissions as a family taking a small car off the road for six months. If you need any more convincing, being vegetarian, in general, uses 2.5 times less carbon emissions than a meat diet overall in terms of food production. Lastly, eating a plant-based diet can also avoid further water pollution caused by animal wastes, which harms not only aquatic ecosystems but also human life.
On a different note, maybe you remember learning the energy pyramid from biology class: only 10% of energy gets transferred from one level to the other. If you do a simple calculation, you would find that the same amount of farmland can be used to feed 10 times more people with plant-based diets than people with meat-based diets. To be precise, 77% of the world’s agricultural land today is used for rearing livestock, while only 23% is used to grow crops. Reducing the amount of land needed to raise livestock can in turn reduce the destruction to valuable natural habitats such as the rainforests. Moreover, excluding meat from your diet can also save large amounts of water. Believe it or not, producing one kilogram of beef requires 13,000 to 100,000 liters of water. This number is significant, especially compared to the amount of water required to produce one kilogram of wheat, which is only 1,000 to 2,000 liters. Although maintaining a plant-based/vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian diet isn’t for everyone, replacing the meat and dairy products you consume with more plant-based products (like vegetables, fruits, legumes, etc) can significantly reduce harm to the environment.
Veganism/Vegetarianism/Pescetarianism at SAS
As for vegetarianism (and its various branches) at SAS, we emailed a survey and received 23 responses from those who eat completely or predominately meat-free (and/or animal product). Out of those 23 responses, six students identified themselves vegetarian, six vegan, seven pescatarian, and four that try to eat mostly plant-based and/or have been strictly vegetarian in the past.
More than half of the respondents became vegans/vegetarians/pescetarians for environmental reasons (big W for the earth), but a significant fraction changed their diet for health or ethical reasons as well. Additionally, most ranked their experience of being vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian at St. Andrew’s to be quite positive (average to be a 3.22/5). A vast majority appreciates Sage Dining Service’s vegetarian options, but also looks forward to a widened variety and better taste. Pescetarians commented that they would love to see some more seafood options in the meal plan.
So, of course, although there are downsides to strictly cutting out meat or dairy from your diet, it’s considerably easier to adjust to a more plant-based lifestyle at SAS than in other places. Which begs the question—have you ever considered following a plant-based diet? Most respondents in the survey recommend a plant-based diet and we, as environmental stewards, highly recommend it as well. Following such diets not only uses less resources and generates less greenhouse gasses as we mentioned earlier, but it also brings about potential health benefits. And, 43.5% of the respondents of our survey said that they became vegan/vegetarian/pescetarian because of health reasons, and one response specifically mentioned that their cholesterol went down 125 points after adapting to a vegan diet and a workout routine.
Lastly, you might be worried that having a plant-based diet is not enough to supply the body's energy needs, but you might find it surprising that plant-based food actually fulfills most of our calories and protein needs. According to ourworldindata.org, more than 80% of the global calorie supply are from plant-based foods, while only 18% come from meat and dairy; 63% of global protein supply comes from plant-based food and only 37% come from meat and dairy.
So, perhaps, give yourself a little challenge of eating a plant-based diet for a day, a week, or a month. You might be surprised to learn that many members of our community have switched to veganism for years with the original intention of just trying it out! Therefore, we hope you consider the benefits of eating more plant-based while at SAS and to join the growing community of plant-based Saint Andreans!
Sources Used and Recommended for Further Reading:
- All School News
- Community Service News
- Environmental News
- Student Life News