* Homage to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Stop Eating All the Water
Despite the soaring popularity of veganism these days, many people still don’t fully understand the relationship between veganism and water conservation. The link is clear: the amount of water it takes to raise one steer from birth to slaughter could float a battleship. Think about that. Some may argue that plants require water—and they’d be right. Yet 70% of the crops and grain grown in the United States alone goes to feeding livestock. It takes many times more pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat or milk. Water is used in every part of the process of raising animals who will be killed for their meat or used for their secretions. In fact, a single quarter-pound burger takes 425 gallons of water to produce. That’s the same amount as a day’s supply of drinking water for 850 humans! For one hamburger.
Compound that by the 150 billion animals that are slaughtered globally each year (according to the UN) and you have a direct link between veganism and liquid gold. It may be fair to say that vegans are water conservationists by default. However, even flexitarians can have a beneficial impact on our planet’s most precious resource. By opting for a vegan lunch and skipping the burger just once a week, flexitarians conserve 23, 400 gallons of water over the course of a year.
What the Heck is the Ogallala?
The story of the Ogallala started about 6 million years ago. The aquifer is a natural underground water storage reservoir in the middle United States that provides fresh water. For a few blissful decades, modern farmers who irrigated using the Ogallala believed the welled water to be limitless. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, that turned out to be pure fiction. The Ogallala’s demise started right around the time McDonald’s decided to franchise. (Probably a coincidence. Hashtag: sarcasm.). Since much or most of the world’s crops are grown to feed animals who will then be consumed, and since the direct connection between water overuse and animal agriculture has been inexplicably underreported, North America’s largest freshwater source is in danger of being depleted.
The story of replenishing the Ogallala will take nearly 6,000 years to tell.
But Wait! There’s More!
We hear about ‘climate change,’ but unless you live in Flint or California—or, you know, not America—‘freshwater scarcity’ rarely splashes across a headline. Nevertheless, that scarcity may soon cause crises almost too terrifying to consider, including an unprecedented threat to biodiversity. According to Stanford Magazine, agriculture irrigation accounts for 85% of the fresh water use in the U.S. On average, “producing one pound of animal protein requires 100 times more water than producing one pound of grain protein” and even almonds. In fact, one pound of almonds requires about 377 gallons of water, while one pound of beef requires 2,463. So feel free to go nuts with the prunus dulcis.
Being and Becoming
Clearly, there have never been more reasons to become vegan. The great news is, there’s never been a better or more delicious time to go vegan. Beyond Burgers are available in the meat section in most grocery stores, many local restaurants (at least in the U.S.), and at every TGIFridays. The Impossible Burger, also available at several local burger joints and sports bars, is something you can order at the White Castle drive-thru (they partnered with Wu Tang!). Miyoko’s cheese and butter knock flavor out of the park, and Daiya vegan pizzas—piled high with extra Daiya cutting board cheese shreds—make for the perfect Saturday night. Close out the day with So Delicious’ new lower-calorie pints, or Google ‘accidentally vegan junk food’ for something cheap and easy. Even though not all vegan food is authentically healthy (Oreos and Coke are vegan), all vegan food is 100% cholesterol-free, which can be a boon to many people’s blood work. Although it takes a little time and practice to get the hang of vegan eating (just as it does with any new skill), being vegan is easy—especially if your motivation is something bigger than yourself, like, say, your planet. Besides, imagine your bragging rights: after just one year of pure veganism, you can gush to everyone about having saved 219,000 gallons of water.
Your planet—and everyone who is younger than you—thanks you.
This article was originally published in bUneke magazine, Summer 2019 issue.
Michelle Schaefer is a freelance writer with a BA in Writing, MA in Psychology, and certification as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator (graduate of the Main Street Vegan Academy). She’s been published in USA Today, VegNews, bUneke magazine, Spirit of Change, American Vegan, and more. She travels the world in search of great vegan food and is based in Indiana with her two cats and one rescue cow. You can find her at VeggieChel.com.