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Corporate Jun 4, 2019 2:00 PM

The vegan diet and the environment

Water is a valuable asset, and several countries have faced scarcity of this natural resource that, in theory, has always been abundant in Brazil. In 2014, however, the State of São Paulo, the most populous one in the country, had a preview of what would be one of the worst water crises in its history. Drastic reduction in the rainfall volume and constant problems in managing the resource caused a population of 44 million to face daily water rationing. After emergency works for increasing water withdrawal and some help “from the skies” with reservoir-filling rainfall levels, the crisis gave a break in 2016, but is still very vivid in the memory of the Brazilians, especially of those living in São Paulo State.

Many people have become more concerned about their water consumption and are using it more rationally, while others have adopted a new lifestyle. This is what happened to Rafael Perrotta, 41, 20 of which working in the thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions fiscal area in São Paulo. He became a vegetarian in 2014 and a vegan in 2015, influenced by the impact of the water crisis and inspired by “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Cowspiracy: The Secret of Sustainability”- two documentaries he watched at the time. The former addresses the influence of human behavior and the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming and damage the environment, and the latter analyzes how raising livestock contributes to environmental destruction.

According to FAO (the United Nations agency for food and agriculture), global demand for animal products will increase 70% by 2050 and the livestock industry contributes with 14.5% of mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as being a major consumer of natural resources.

After a year as a vegetarian (without consuming any kind of meat), Rafael decided to stop consuming animal products altogether and became a vegan. “Initially, what motivated me was the water issue, but the environment has always been important to me: I like nature, I meditate and I have Buddhist philosophy teachings about animal suffering linked to production of meat and other by-products”, he comments.

Adapting everyday life

In addition to doing his part to contribute to preserving natural resources, Rafael said that he started to spend less to eat on a daily basis. “I bring enough food from home, started to buy less processed foods and cook more. My food costs have gone down”. On the health side, he says he also had benefits: “It was never the reason to become a vegan, but, in addition to only going anywhere on my bike, the improvement in my health was a consequence of that”, he emphasizes, pointing out that the transition to veganism should always be monitored by a doctor.

Veganism presumes changes not only in the diet, but in consumption as a whole. Perrotta says that there is a lot of information on brands of different items like cleaning products and cosmetics. “I will not buy them if they have animal-origin ingredients in the composition or if they are tested on animals. There are several platforms and apps that provide this information and make it easier to check. For example, when I go to the supermarket to buy a detergent for example, I see if that company does any testing on animals, and what the compositions are. I always try to keep current, and when I find a brand that I trust, I tend to stick with it. It’s the same thing with clothing”.

New attitudes

Rafael considers himself an environmental activist. He says he does not judge anyone who eats meat and always positions himself in influencing by example. “I try to influence some friends to have at least a meatless Monday for reducing the environmental impact”.

At thyssenkrupp, he says that he always tries to raise awareness in reducing consumption of plastic cups, for example. “We had a Secret Santa action that gave out squeezes for drinking water, and I always use the same mug for drinking coffee”. In fact, garbage generation and its disposal, especially when it concerns plastic, are major global problems. Rafael gives a tip: “Ideally, one must not consume so much industrialized stuff, because everything comes packaged, generating garbage. We all need to pay more attention to our consumption and to our way of thinking. Technology is advancing and we end up getting too much used to it: coffee used to be filtered in a cloth filter, and today the coffee capsules we use generate a lot of garbage”.

Vegetarianism and veganism in Brazil

In Brazil, according to a 2018 IBOPE Inteligência survey, 14% of people declare themselves vegetarian, and that number rises to 16% in the metropolitan areas of São Paulo, Curitiba, Recife and Rio de Janeiro. There is no survey showing the number of vegans in the country, but the Brazilian Vegetarian Society estimates that there are about 7 million veganism adepts.

Vegan meat?

The vegetarian market is growing fast in Brazil. According to the IBOPE Inteligência survey, 55% of Brazilians would consume more vegan products if they had that indication on the packaging.

This trend has attracted initiatives from companies and startups. One example is the self-named foodtech Fazenda Futuro, which recently announced in Brazil the Futuro Burger hamburger, “a revolutionary, vegetable-protein based vegetable burger with the same texture and taste as meat”.

Other brands, such as Beyond Meat (US), which is already listed on the US stock exchange, and Brazil’s Superbom introduced their meatless burgers at one of the major supermarket trade fairs in Brazil this year.