Raleigh is updating its Comprehensive Plan, the strategy document that will guide decisions through 2030. The plan should support a shift toward a more plant-based diet. Raleigh can take significant steps toward becoming carbon neutral while improving the health of its citizens and supporting local farmers.
Update 1: It’s too late to sign the petition, but I hope that you will follow the effort to add language to the plan that supports shifting toward a plant-rich diet. I turned in 82 signatures on the December 17th. The Glenwood Citizens Advisory Committee also approved resolution to this effect. Update 2: Alas, I was unable to convince the Raleigh Environmental Advisory Board to serve welcoming, low-carbon food at its award ceremony in 2019. But I continue to press. Maybe next year!
Raleigh: Sustainable and Resilient
The plan’s section on Environmental Protection includes these admirable goals:
The success of cities in the 21st century will, to a significant degree, be decided by their ability to adapt to challenges presented by climate change and to become more sustainable and resilient. This Environmental Protection Element contains policies and actions required for the City of Raleigh to meet these and other challenges. In the process, the City will be improving the long-term health of local residents, regional natural resources, and ecological systems. By taking these actions, Raleigh will serve as a key player in the national reversal of sprawling development patterns and environmentally degrading development practices. Ultimately, the goal is to one day become carbon neutral while protecting natural resource assets and growing sustainably.
How Can Food Choices Help Our City Thrive?
Eating more plants improves health
A new study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2015 only 10% of North Carolinians ate enough fruit and only 8% ate enough vegetables, slightly lower than the national average. The lead author notes that our eating habits put us at risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. We’re missing out on the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that fruits and vegetables provide.
Eating more plants and wasting less food helps us become carbon neutral
The book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming ranks 100 changes we can make to reduce global warming.
- #3 is reducing food waste, which would cut CO2 by 70.53 gigatons worldwide
- #4 is adopting a plant-rich diet, which would cut CO2 by 66.11 gigatons
Combined, these food-related changes could cut 136.64 gigatons of CO2, more than either of the top two solutions (84.6 for producing energy with onshore wind turbines and 89.74 for better handling of gasses used for refrigeration).
Offering Plant-Rich Options is More Inclusive
Offering plant-based options means more people can eat, including those who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, vegan, or watching their cholesterol. Plant-based options bypass many religious concerns, including those about pork and shellfish.
Local, Plant-Rich Meals are Better for the City’s Budget
- The ingredients for plant-rich meals tend to cost less than those using animal products
- Buying fruits and vegetables from local farmers keeps money in our community and region
- Eating more fruits and vegetables improves health, which reduces medical bills, insurance costs, and sick days
Eating More Plants is Easy and Delicious. And It Can Spread.
Shifting toward a plant-rich diet is easy and quick. It can start with ordering some bean burritos for lunch or including hummus on the appetizer platter. We don’t need to build wind turbines or new roads to do it. The City should develop a program to help citizens and staff source and serve plant-based foods, with a preference for locally grown fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. We have many fantastic restaurants in town that offer plant-rich options, including Living Kitchen, Fiction Kitchen, Irregardless, the Remedy, and Kim Bap. Whole Foods offers terrific vegan baked goods and deli options.
Once people try the delicious, fresh food at City events, they may take some of the ideas home. Local organizations and businesses also want to save money, have healthier members or employees, and help save the planet.
Raleigh, I hope you take this opportunity to lead by example and make a difference!