Vegan News recognized America’s first school to go completely vegan on Wednesday. The MUSE School is a private school in California (shocker). Spanning from preschool to 12th grade, the MUSE School has long been dedicated to environmental sustainability. Their students learn the detailed technology behind solar-powered energy, and now, with the transition to a plant-based diet, the students participate in a program where they help grow the produce that their cafeteria serves.

A private school in California is the first to go entirely vegan. PHOTO VIA WIKIPEDIA

The MUSE School in California is the first to go entirely vegan in an effort to minimize environmental damage. PHOTO VIA WIKIPEDIA

Although I am sure animal welfare concerns are an important cornerstone of this dietary transition, the MUSE School’s decision was based primarily in environmental concerns. For many, the link between the environment and a vegan/vegetarian diet remains a mystery. As a vegetarian, this environmental link is a huge part of my lifestyle decision and I want to reaffirm how much I support the MUSE School.

The animal industry is, according to many, more harmful for our atmosphere than the automobile industry. According to the United Nations in 2006, the animal food industry generates “more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.” That is actually insane. The statistics can go on and on — water usage for beef production can be anywhere between 13 and 100 times the usage for wheat production. Not to mention that 30 percent of Earth’s surface is used for animal farming, which contributes to 37 percent of all methane and 64 percent of ammonia production from human activity. Methane is a particularly dangerous gas because of how apt it is to trap heat in the atmosphere, and ammonia contributes significantly to acid rain. These statistics reveal the significant toll that the animal industry takes on our planet. This is something that we must work to reduce.

The main counterargument tends to be something along the lines of “But we can’t make the whole world vegan! That just isn’t going to happen! You’re unrealistic!”, at which point I feel an overwhelming urge to clarify the intentions of the vegan movement. While I am sure that some people would love to see an entirely vegan world, the majority of this movement’s participants believe more in the overall reduction of animal consumption, rather than the elimination of it. Popular campaigns like Meatless Mondays help accomplish this; if a four person family ate no meat or cheese for one day, it would be the environmental equivalent of not using a car five weeks!

This is where compromise becomes imperative. While I fully support and encourage the MUSE School’s decision, I do not believe that it is the best meal plan for most schools. However, I do think that as veganism and vegetarianism become more popular throughout these kinds of programs, other schools are more likely to implement more plant-based options, and even go meat-free for one day a week. I would love to see more schools follow the MUSE School’s sustainable model with fresh produce and sustainable energy education; if children were taught from a young age to be mindful of their environmental footprint, I think we would see great strides in pollution control and effective resource usage.

My charge from here is for everyone to implement one meatless day a week into their diets. Hopefully, schools will begin following this model by offering healthier and tastier meat-free options to encourage this habit and reduce the general environmental footprint each child leaves. I believe that our job as humans is to leave the Earth a better place than we found it. My mother has encouraged that from my first moment here, and I think that by working toward a more mindful use of our resources, we might just leave this Earth with an extra bit of peace and sustainability than it had when we arrived.