The most excruciating day of my professional life came just a few days after the mid-March shutdowns. I saw our plummeting bank balance, the barren streets, the stores devoid of customers, and knew I had no alternative. In a single day, I had to furlough 90% of our employees, hundreds of good people that we had hired, trained, and worked with closely to build our stable and growing business. I cried, hugged my son, drove to my parents’ house, and surrendered to the tidal wave of sadness, guilt, and fear.
When I opened my first restaurant in 2012, it was the culmination of years of meticulous planning and a giant step toward fulfilling my dream of protecting people and the planet through serving them plant-based food. Over the next eight years we opened eight more restaurants. When the pandemic hit, we were in the middle of negotiating new leases to expand further. Then it all came crashing down in March.
When the shutdowns started, our sales were down to 10 percent of what they had been. After six long, hard months of clawing and crawling our way back up, each day of the pandemic and resulting chaos seems to bring fresh boulders to scale. Some days it feels like we are climbing the peak of Mt. Everest in a blizzard. But even so, this crushing period can’t compare to the devastation that is barreling toward us like an avalanche.
With the climate in desperate crisis, I fear the new normal once we do get the coronavirus under control: Flooding, fires, storms, poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and climate-related illness like asthma, cancer, and heart disease. The Western U.S. is literally burning, the South and East are wracked by hurricanes, floods, and rising tides. Glaciers are melting, species are disappearing, and our carefully balanced eco-system is almost at the point of no return.
For years, our country’s leadership has put short term profits and ideology ahead of people, the planet and the health of children, like my three year old son, Lukas. Now they are rejecting sound science for rumors, falsehoods, and fear-mongering.
We are once again unprepared for the next catastrophe and it’s many-pronged effects. The climate crisis’ impact will be even more disruptive to our everyday business functions and our employees’ and customers’ health and wellbeing.
As a business owner, I can’t begin to wrap my head around the government’s response to the COVID or the Climate Crisis. As a mom, I am frightened for my son’s future.
We now know we can’t rely on our government to take the necessary actions to protect us, and sometimes what they do is out of our control. That’s a travesty and a massive disappointment. However, we, through our own actions, hold the key to changing the course of the impending climate crisis. In fact, it starts at our kitchen tables.
We simply cannot address climate change if we don’t address the profound impact what we eat has on the planet, and especially the vast resources that are consumed by animal agriculture. Now is the time to take a close look at what we eat every day, three times a day, and how it affects our air, our weather, and our health.
Most people have no idea that:
- The number one greenhouse gas producer in the world is animal agriculture—more than the emissions from cars, trucks, and planes put together.
- Eating a plant-based diet for one day can save 1100 gallons of water, reduce your carbon footprint by 73 percent, and conserve 30 square feet of rainforest.
- Ditch one egg from your meal, and you’ll save 53 gallons of water.
- Eating one less beef burger a week is the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles.
We can change our lightbulbs, drive electric cars, and buy more efficient appliances. And we should! But doing all that still won’t have nearly the impact on saving our rainforests and our warming oceans as will moving toward a more plant-based diet. Let’s also agree to replace at least some of our meaty meals with delicious alternatives derived from plants.
Here’s what I ask, in fact beg, of my neighbors and fellow Americans who want to fend off the next crisis that will derail our lives: Vote for leaders who see the climate emergency for what it is. Listen to scientists. And open your mind and your mouth to a juicy, meatless burger.
Photo courtesy of The Creative Exchange, Unsplash