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Save the earth: The raw food diet



One of my oft-heard claims is that you can save the earth with the raw food diet. Gasp, horror? If that's your reaction you may be wondering why bringing raw back to the kitchen would be the greenest way of living.

In my article, what is a vegan, I discussed the impact of eating meat and using animal products on the environment. However, being a raw vegan takes it a step further.

It's the easiest way to save the earth, because you are no longer contributing to the 18% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the meat industry, and by eating raw, you also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions caused by transporting meat and produce.

Save the earth: The environmental cost of the cooked food lifestyle

I've put together a complete list of the ecological cost of eating cooked food based on Seth Asher and Rob Miller's in-depth "The Ignominious List of Carnage brought about by the human practice of firing food", expanded upon slightly according to this blog post.

With the cooked food lifestyle, we need:

  • pots, pans, baking dishes, woks, stoves, ovens, microwaves, cooking utensils, toasters, gas, heating elements, kerosene, firewood, charcoal, barbeques, brills, baking equipment, spice racks;
  • dishwashers, dishwashing soap and detergents, scrubbers, heavy-duty sponges, dish-washing machines;
  • manufacture of all of the above including mining and production of metals and plastics;
  • warehouses, grain silos, factory farms, slaughter houses, manufacturing and processing plants, use of preservatives and fertilisers and EXCESSIVE water;
  • processed food packaging including disposable containers (the cost of packaging) including plastic, glass, cardboard, wax paper, plastic wrap, aluminium, other metals, styrofoam, paper for labels, glossy paper, printing ink, printing presses...
  • trucking and shipping, refrigerator trucks, Freon (a chemical compound containing fluorine and carbon, and often hydrogen, chlorine or bromine, primarily used in refrigeration), trains (the reason behind train system: grain to cattle and cattle to slaughter), steel for the cattle cars, asphalt, cargo planes, cargo ships, fumigants;
  • processed food based advertising and promotion: ad agencies, TV, radio, production houses, newspapers, magazines/publishing and all the resources required for these businesses to run
  • grocery stores, mega-grocery stores, shelving, more refrigerators, more freezers, employees to stock shelves, check out and bag your groceries, more paper and plastic bags;
  • takeaways and delivery services, fast food, staff to make the food, more packaging, more waste;
  • once the food is consumed: medical costs, hospitals, doctors, nurses, drugs, alternative drugs, herbs, all manner of pills, potions and procedures, marketing and advertising costs for the doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies...vitamins, herbal remedies and supplements
  • soft drink manufacture, beer brewing, wine making and much more.

Save the earth: Reduce your energy consumption

In light of the above, it's clear why the raw food diet is a sustainable diet. It's estimated that over one-third of carbon dioxide worldwide is caused by cooking.

The Western stove uses a substantial amount of electricity, while fuel for stoves in developing countries contributes to the deforestation and destruction of the environment.

According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the production of one calorie of animal protein requires more than ten times the fossil fuel input as a calorie of plant protein.

This means that ten times the amount of carbon dioxide is emitted as well. So, where does all this waste occur?

Each animal that is slaughtered for food is fed with grains, soy and other crops (not their natural diet). The production of these crops requires energy consumption, and additional pesticides and fertilizers to grow (oil-based of course).

This feed is then harvested and transported to feedlots. From the feedlots, animals are then transported to a slaughterhouse, the carcasses are often taken (in refrigerated trucks (consuming even more energy) to yet another processing plant before the meat is ready to be transported to a grocery store (most often across the world).

When you eat a raw food diet, you're helping to save the earth by eliminating all this unnecessary energy waste. You're even reducing the energy used by appliances - all you need in the kitchen is a blender (this could even be hand or bicycle powered), a knife and a chopping board.

You don't even need a dishwasher, as it's easy to rinse off your dinnerware immediately after eating. Some raw foodists do without a fridge or freezer, though I love frozen banana ice-cream too much to do that yet!

Since your groceries come fresh, you'll find you produce much less garbage, most of which can be composted, and go back into your home garden, in a cycle that completely eliminates waste.

Save the earth: Eat organic

Buying organic means you do not support agriculture as it stands today as "one of the greatest contributors to the destruction of our environment" (Bill Mollison, co-founder of permaculture).

Increasing consumer demand for organic food means that more and more producers will begin supplying organic food, causing prices to drop, and the supply of produce grown with fertilizer and pesticides will diminish.

When you choose the most sustainable diet, you're doing your health a favour, and helping save the earth too.

Save the earth: Buy local

Buying locally produced fresh vegetables from a nearby farmer or market, means less of a carbon footprint than buying something imported from another country, which may have been packaged somewhere else and manufactured somewhere else.

For example, corn grown in China is exported to America, where it is canned, before it gets shipped to your nearest grocery store (which may be across the world).

Obviously buying local depends on what kind of climate you live in. However, it's always possible to buy food produced as close to you as possible. For instance, I buy mango's that come from Pakistan or India. While they're certainly not Dubai's neighbours, it's better than buying Australian mango's. I also eat significant amounts of dates as these are locally grown.

So source as much locally produced ingredients as you can. In my opinion, it's often better to buy fresh, locally produced goods than organic, when organic food is being shipped from other countries.

Alternatively, do what most raw vegans end up doing and move to the tropics (our very own Garden of Eden), you'll be doing a lot to save the earth just by moving out of a city.

Save the earth: Eat fruit and vegetables

As an 811 raw vegan, you eat mostly fruit and vegetables. These grow best in a permaculture food forest system.

Think of an orchard teeming with a diversity of fruit: typically date palms form a canopy above, over a layer of dwarf trees and nut bushes, which in turn shelter fruiting shrubs (currants and berries), over herbaceous plants (veggies and herbs), and roots underground, while a layer of climbers and vines (grapes, running berries etc) run vertically.

By using ample groundcover, such as alfalfa or fava beans, the soil is protected from water runoff and erosion. Watch Part 1 of Establishing a Food Forest the Permaculture Way, for a visual explanation of this principle, below.

Now just imagine how much fruit and vegetable yields you'd get from one acre of land, using all the vertical and horizontal space you have available!

According to Douglas Graham of The 80/10/10 Diet and Grain Damage: Rethinking the High-Starch Diet, fruit trees provide the highest yield per acre of any crop, more than double what grains provide.

The entire U.S. population could be fed on a quarter of the current agricultural land if they were turned into orchards.

Save the earth: Reduce your water consumption

What's more, it takes significantly less water to grow fruit and vegetables than it does to produce beef or any other meat or dairy product.

This is called the water footprint of a product - the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced. It refers to the sum of the water used in the various steps of the production chain.

If you look at the water footprint of beef, it takes on average, three years before the animal is slaughtered to produce 200 kg of boneless beef. The animal consumes roughly 1,300 kg of grains (wheat, oats, barley, corn, dry peas, soybean meal and other small grains) 7,200 kg of roughages (pasture, hay, silage etc), 24 cubic metres of water for drinking and seven for servicing.

This means to produce one kilogram of boneless beef, we use about 6.5 kg grain, 36 kg roughages, and 155 litres of water (for only drinking and servicing). Producing the volume of feed requires 15,300 litres of water on average.

The water footprint of 1 kg of beef thus adds up to 15,500 litres of water (excluding polluted water that may result from leaching of fertilisers in the feed crop field or from surplus manure reaching the water system).

Compare this to fruit and vegetables in the table below (sourced from the water footprint report) and you'll see the difference. What's more, this is taking into account fresh water; whereas with permaculture systems you can reduce your water needs even more, making growing your fruit even more sustainable.

Food item

Unit

Global Avg. Water Footprint (litres)

Apple or pear 1 kg 700
Banana 1 kg 860
Beef 1 kg 15,500
Beer (250 ml glass) 75
Bread (from wheat) 1 kg 1,300
Cabbage 1 kg 200
Cheese 1 kg 5,000
Chicken 1 kg 3,900
Chocolate 1 kg 24,000
Coffee 125 ml cup 140
Cucumber or pumpkin 1 kg 240
Dates 1 kg 3,000
Groundnuts (in shell) 1 kg 3,100
Lettuce 1 kg 130
Maize 1 kg 900
Mango 1 kg 1,600
Milk 250 ml cup 250
Olives 1 kg 4,400
Oranges 1 kg 460
Peach or nectarine 1 kg 1,200
Pork 1 kg 4,800
Potato 1 kg 250
Rice 1 kg 3,400
Sugar (from sugarcane) 1 kg 1,500
Tea 250 ml cup 30
Tomato 1 kg 180

 

If humans turned to eating more fruits and vegetables, more orchards would be planted which will combat deforestation and desertification. Trees hold topsoil together, enriching the soil by reducing runoff and assisting in water retention.

Their leaves and falling fruit provide additional nutrients. They absorb pollutants such as carbon dioxide, turning it in valuable oxygen, and also provide a microclimate for other plants and animals.

So if you really want to save the earth, adopt a sustainable diet such as the raw food diet. At the very least, REDUCE your consumption of meat and dairy products.

Save the earth: Know the eco-footprint of your food

According to a study done in partnership with the Cardiff Council, the BRASS Research Centre at Cardiff University and Stockholm Environment Institute to measure the city’s Ecological Footprint, the eco-footprint of your food is larger than the eco-footprint of the car you drive, all your travel and all the energy you use in your daily life (showering, heating/cooling your home etc.)

Cardiff’s study concludes that the food and beverages you consume in your daily life are the single largest determining factor of your overall ecological footprint.

So, help save the earth today and get clued up about the cost of everything you eat and drink.

Save the earth: Grow your own food with permaculture

The last and final step towards adopting the most sustainable diet on the planet is what I find the most logical. As a raw vegan, I gradually began to realise that I could be doing more to save the environment if I began to grow my own food, even on a small scale.

If I didn't have to buy all my herbs and veggies from the market, I could be reducing my carbon footprint even further. Thus I began discover permaculture gardening.

Permaculture simply means working nature to produce a sustainable garden design, and can be used by farmers and gardeners alike (for example: community gardens, rooftop gardens, small balconies or even just to help your pot plants flourish).

From growing your own food to reusing and recycling, using renewable energy and building sustainable housing and structures, permaculture entails a holistic, sustainable way of life.

Simple strategies like composting, using household greywater to water your plants instead of fresh water, using dead plants as mulch to protect and nurture the soil, natural pest deterrents and companion planting allow one to save water, save energy and ultimately save the environment.

Combined with raw veganism, I believe permaculture is the best blueprint for the future.

So if you want to reduce your water and ecological footprint, if you want to save the earth and do something that actually counts, consider spending less time cooking in the kitchen. Try eat more raw, locally grown and organic food and enjoy greater health and happiness, for you and the planet.

Related Articles

Raw Vegan Diet: A raw vegan diet is not a diet; it's a lifestyle. Discover a lifestyle that is filled with fabulous health, joy and an abundance of fruit and vegetables.

Raw Food Health: Get passionate about raw food health and nutrition, learn how cooking food destroys its nutrients and how illness and disease becomes a thing of the past with a raw food lifestyle.

Raw Food Weight Loss: Imagine feeling full and satisfied all the time, and dropping weight! Learn how to eat right, be inspired by raw food diet weight loss success stories and get the top weight loss tips and guides.

The Health Benefits of Olive Oil: Find out the truth behind the Mediterranean Diet, the effects of a high-fat meal and other mind-boggling information that will change your perceptions for good.

Benefits of a Raw Food Diet: Get inspired! Learn what the top 15 raw food diet benefits really are.

The Longevity Diet: The longevity diet gives you a blueprint for health, happiness and long-lasting life. Discover the diet and lifestyle similarities between world's longest-living cultures.

What is a Vegan: In this fascinating article, you'll learn everything you'd ever want to know about becoming a vegan.

Raw Food Travel Tips: At last, Raw Food Travel Tips allows you to travel as a raw vegan without worrying that you're going to fall off the wagon. Find out the best strategies for remaining committed to raw food, anytime, anywhere.


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