Guest editorial: Park City’s mayor says challenge convinced him of benefits of plant-based diet | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Park City’s mayor says challenge convinced him of benefits of plant-based diet

Andy Beerman
Park City mayor

How do you tell if someone is vegan? Don't worry, they'll tell you.

It's easy to poke fun at a vegan's zeal for their dietary choices; it's not so easy to criticize their logic. They are a passionate group for good reason: there are many health, planetary, and moral reasons for a plant-based diet. Recently my wife (Thea) and I participated in a two-week vegan challenge to learn about the impact of our food choices. Our conclusions were clear: 1) it's good for our bodies, 2) it's less impact on the planet, and 3) not eating animal products better aligns with our values. Yes, it took more time to plan, shop and prepare meals; it was tricky to eat at restaurants (although PC has some with great vegan options); and we missed a few of our favorite foods. But the best path is rarely the one of least resistance, and we concluded there are many reasons to support a mostly or totally plant-based diet. We'd like to invite all of you to consider a few small changes that will dramatically reduce your impact upon the planet and improve your health.

1) Eat less meat and animal products: it takes 2,500 gallons to make just one pound of meat, but just 25 gallons of water to grow one pound of wheat. Put another way — to all you fast showering water misers — the water required for 1 lb. of beef is equal to a 370 min shower! Worried about our snow? Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 18% of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and U.S. livestock produces 250,000 pounds of excrement per second. And we think we have a dog-poop problem in Round Valley?!

2) Reduce your food waste. 40% of food in America is wasted, making it the #1 deposit in our landfills. 6.7% of GHGs are attributed to global food waste. If Food Waste were a country, it would be behind only China and US as the largest greenhouse gas emitters. This one is easy: 1) buy less (resist that "cheap" mega-pack); 2) eat your leftovers (mom was right); 3) compost.

3) Buy local. We're big supporters of organics, but is it really better to buy an organic avocado from Chile? Be mindful of where your food comes from, and how it's produced. Support small and local farms. Shopping at the local farmers market complements the check you write for open space. Each local farm that fails is one more subdivision contributing to urban sprawl.

When addressing complex problems, I like to say: "How do you eat an elephant," but that seems inappropriate in this context. I'm not sure what to do about my carnivorous metaphors, but this challenge has reinforced my belief that you can never be too mindful. The food choices we make, have a profound impact on the planet and our bodies. If we each make some small changes to how we eat, it would have a huge impact. Let's work together toward a healthier, happier lifestyle … one bite at a time.

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Special thanks to Kent Maurer (www.onesingleact.org), Lauren Lockey & David Swartz (www.sagemtn.org), Alisha Niswander for organizing this challenge and their efforts to a promote plant-based diet.