COLUMN: Frugal plant-based eating and climate change


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn , Columnist

It’s common practice for students to adopt a frugal lifestyle during their college years. Additionally, students may feel like they can’t do much to help battle climate change during a period of their lives where surplus income is nonexistent.

However, it is untrue that individuals are powerless to help bring an end to the epic droughts, floods, and wildfires we are seeing as a result of man-made global warming.

If young people, at scale, make small changes every day, then we can move the needle on climate change and perhaps many other areas where we need to overhaul legacy systems and uproot unsustainable ways of thinking.

Animal agriculture and factory farming practices contribute a significant portion of the greenhouse gasses that are causing climate change. Eating plant-based food is a small way that individuals can make a meaningful contribution.

Nowadays there are many meat and dairy substitutes and processed alternatives, but these options are cost prohibitive to many students, and quite frankly unappealing to average consumers. In the end, it may be cheapest to buy the genuine article. That is, of course, unless a consumer is aware of simpler options.

Those interested in adopting a more plant-based diet will be delighted to learn that foods as simple as rice and beans prove to be a great option for a complete protein that offers a tremendous bang for their buck.

(Anyone skeptical of the nutritiousness of rice and beans should go read the Wikipedia article on rice and beans right now. Yes, there is an entire Wikipedia article for this simple dish, and it’s a fascinating read.)

For the purposes of both nutrition and frugality, every student preparing their own meals should own a rice cooker and be buying beans either dried or in a can. Learning how to cook some basic, plant-based, meals will save money and help the environment when done at scale.

For example, the next time you’re at the grocery store you can buy a package of rice, a can of black beans, a jar of your favorite salsa, and an avocado. Quite easily, you can make what restaurants call a “burrito bowl,” but you are able to feed yourself and a friend in a manner that’s practical and sustainable given a student’s income and time constraints.

Small, frugal moves like this, over time and at scale will make a meaningful contribution and a positive impact on the world. It disincentivizes factory farming, promotes healthy eating, saves money, and unburdens the digestive system.

No, it will not reverse climate change immediately, but it’s a conscientious start, and that’s what’s needed right now amidst the catastrophic floods, fires, and droughts devastating our planet.

When done at scale, the more folks continue to make choices that are plant-based, the more likely a new generation can gradually usher in an era free of factory farming. To do this is to embrace simplicity, compassion, frugality, health, and our planet.

Dan Hahn is English composition and rhetoric graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.