Enjoy your Veganuary, but is it really helping save the planet?

Is anyone thinking about the massive amounts of fuel required to transport  trendy vegetables and fruits, halfway around the world, this Veganuary, asks Ailin Quinlan
Enjoy your Veganuary, but is it really helping save the planet?

Avocado is a popular fruit among vegans, but some of them have racked up huge air miles being flown into Ireland.

“PARSNIPS?” they scoffed. Not a chance! God, no!

We were talking Veganuary, me and the Millennials.

You know who I’m talking about here, don’t you? The ‘I don’t do ends’ generation. (As in — they never finish off a can of Coke or a Short Machiatto because, erm, to neck the last few drops would be, like, embarrassing.)

Anyway, as they were explaining to me, and very, very patiently, ‘everyone’ was doing Veganuary.

Well, I wasn’t, I said.

But it was soooo important for the planet, they protested. Surely I wanted to do my bit to save the planet? (Veganuary comes with a hashtag in front of it, as in #Veganuary, so it must be important, like?)

And maybe it is. Maybe because, as most of us have committed to eat healthier and better as in eat more fruit and vegetables and less bad stuff in 2020, the concept does have a point.

But, it seems, while the indigenous parsnip may be perfectly palatable to clapped-out Baby Boomers like me, it doesn’t cut it on the Millennial menu.

And, as it emerged in our subsequent discussion on the topic, nor do potatoes or carrots, or, God forbid, cabbages.

Humble Irish veggies just don’t strike those high notes on the Millenial Metre of Cool.

The Millenials did not rate porridge either. OMG — SOOO BORING, they clamoured. Unlike, for example avocados (as in, smashed avo’s on toast for breakfast, yum yum, they said), or the banana in the trendy breakfast smoothie they liked to have before a day of, like, college or, erm, work. Or blueberries, or those packets of frozen berries —strawberries, raspberries — equally so delicious in the aforesaid smoothie breakfast.

And then you have those gorgeous red peppers (utterly crucial for a decent stir fry, they explained) or asparagus (as in, you know, a posh vegetable for dining out. Giggle, giggle.)

The implication being that all of this was news to me (sure, how would I know — I’ve only been cooking family meals seven days a week for 30 years?)

Veganism, or the consumption of plant-based foods, they explained, is so much better for you and the planet, than, like, cows and steak and milk and cheese, as such.

The carbon footprint involved in the raising of a cow was, like, utterly mega, they observed smugly. I should definitely give veganism a go for the month anyway, they advised.

So, yes, veganism is certainly having its moment. Veganuary, I discovered, is apparently a non-profit movement that promotes veganism by encouraging everyone to eat plant-based foods throughout the month of January.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. I think it’s great that, as I read in the paper during the week, some 5,500 Irish people have signed up for it, following in the footsteps of committed vegans like Bill Clinton, actor Joaquim Phoenix and singer Ariana Grande.

(All good, though in fairness, 5,500 people hardly constitutes ‘everyone’, unless, that is, the vast majority of the Irish population has suddenly somehow evanesced.)

Anyway, the Millennials continued to nod kindly at me.

Is smugness a Millennial trait, I wondered, biting hard on my lip and recalling an article in Time magazine which once described them as entitled, self-obsessed, lazy narcissists.

So the smugness probably goes without saying.

The nodding stopped though, when this worn-down, frayed-around-the-edges mid-fifties ignoramus of a Baby Boomer began to wonder aloud how many air miles the breakfast blueberries (probably from Argentina) or the banana, more than likely flown in from somewhere in Africa, would have notched up by the time they get smushed for the Millennial Smoothie?

And that smashed avocado that’s so great on breakfast toast? Delivered all the way from somewhere in Central Mexico, most likely.

And yes, what about those aforementioned packets of frozen raspberries and strawberries, so completely out of season here at this time of year, therefore requiring to be flown halfway around the world for the self-same smoothie breakfast?

Porridge oats grow in Ireland, people!

And what about those healthy red peppers and the big fat juicy red tomatoes so great for the bolognaise sauce? More than likely grown in giant, industrial-sized poly-tunnels with artificial heating somewhere in the Mediterranean before being flown over here.

Not so great for the planet, I observed blandly to an affronted silence.

Whereas the parsnips, carrots, potatoes, cabbages and oats, actually are. Grown locally, harvested locally and delivered locally. Virtually no air miles required.

The pause lengthened and they changed the subject.

I don’t know if they ever actually made the connection between the fact that while the innocent Irish cow does have a big carbon footprint, the massive amounts of fuel required to transport these trendy vegetables and fruits halfway around the world to their table is even heftier.

But that’s only me, like. Sure what do I know?

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