It’s Good for the Planet, Too

Photo by Dilip Barman


Guest Column by Dilip Barman

It is no surprise that groups like the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have been warning us that the biggest single impact we can make on the climate is to adopt a plant-based diet. There are many easily found and well documented references on this relationship; I particularly like Climate Healers and their detailed scientific charts.

What are some simple environmental steps that you can make with respect to diet? Here are some ideas.

  • Eating plant-based is even gentler on the planet than eating local. But you can do both! We are blessed in our community with many excellent farmers’ markets, such as my favorite, the one in Carrboro, which offers locally grown produce, as do most of our area grocery stores.
  • I favor organic produce, which is widely available at area farmers’ markets and area groceries. Strictly speaking, there isn’t a large body of good science (yet) that points to significant health impacts for eating organic. But it seems clear that adding chemicals to the earth and pushing for unsustainable growth is a recipe for pollution and possibly dust bowls. I certainly wouldn’t want to garden or commercially grow and expose myself to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Eat out and don’t just skip the straw, but skip the meat, dairy and eggs. In its 2019 poll, the Vegetarian Resource Group found that 46 percent of Americans eat “at least some vegetarian meals when eating out and almost half (43 percent) of those are eating vegan meals.”

Restaurants are catering more and more to plant-based interest. We’re blessed with some excellent vegetarian and vegan restaurants in our area, such as Sage Vegetarian Café (a friend who reviewed restaurants in New York City told me that there was no Persian food like Sage’s to be found in the Big Apple), Vegan Flava Café and Soul Cocina — and that’s just in Chapel Hill.

I’ve found just about any restaurant that I go to can make tasty vegan food, even if it’s not on the menu (in that case, try calling in advance). Non-vegetarian restaurants in the area that have a particular focus on providing vegan dishes include Vimala’s Curryblossom Café (try their local mushroom uttapam, a thick, slightly sour, pancake) in Chapel Hill; and Spotted Dog (many choices — tempeh lettuce tomato or Impossible Burger, perhaps?) and Pizza Mercato (great pizza, hold the cheese but include locally grown vegetable toppings) in Carrboro.

I’ve heard that Pittsboro has good Greek and Italian choices, and there are a number of small eateries in Hillsborough that can make good vegan food (I’ve enjoyed choosing from a variety of vegan chocolates at Matthew’s Chocolates, for example).

  • Join a group like Triangle Vegetarian Society, a plant-based meet-up group, or a “Pod” (PlantPure Communities have these plant-based interest groups throughout the nation — there are ones in Chapel Hill, Mebane and Durham). They often have potluck dinners and/or discussions.
  • Take a class. Numerous vegan chefs offer classes through Piedmont Farm Animal Sanctuary, Carrboro Parks and Recreation, and other venues. I am one of several local Food for Life instructors (including Karen Pullen in Chapel Hill, Denise Dysard in Durham, John Tepedino in Raleigh, Joan Stephenson in Dunn, and Ana
    Gray in Clayton) who offer food and nutrition classes, as well as pressure cooking classes.
  • Read a book. It seems like every few weeks another well-written book by a reputable author is released. There are so many good, prolific authors out there who have great recipes and/or share good evidence-based research.

Just to name a few, if you are looking for great cookbooks, start with local Kathy Hester and check out other authors as well, such as Linda Long, Nava Atlas (I’m hosting her on March 28 for a vegan cooking demonstration and potluck), Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Miyoko Schinner (her great plant-based “cheeses” are available at local stores), and dessert expert Fran Costigan. For background on veganism, try anything by Neal Barnard, Brenda Davis, T. Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, or Victoria Moran.

Most of all, have fun. If this is new for you, start off as a “flexitarian” and introduce yourself to more and more plant-based foods.

Dilip Barman leads the Triangle Vegetarian Society, teaches food and nutrition classes, and recently made his first film, Code Blue, about the health benefits of moving toward a whole food plant-based diet and the importance of nutrition education in medical training.

His periodic column in The Local Reporter will cover various aspects of plant-based eating, including recipes and cooking techniques; health and environmental benefits of eating low on the food chain; and pointers to important relevant resources and news.

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4 Comments on "It’s Good for the Planet, Too"

  1. Virginia Waterman | January 8, 2020 at 10:11 am | Reply

    Great article. May I suggest another excellent cookbook from Mark Bittman, author of “How To Cook Everything”, a vegetarian version,. Called, appropriately, ,”How To Cook Everything Vegetarian”. I have been cooking for 40 years and I still find great ideas and instructions on how to modify non veggie recipes.

  2. What a great article! I especially appreciate the list of restaurants. Thank you, Dilip!

  3. Great article for us “well seasoned” vegans or for anyone just starting out or curious to learn more about how to eat healthy and do what’s right for our beautiful planet and all its inhabitants. Thank you, Dilip!

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