Green University

We are what we eat - everyday challenges to save the world

A student's story on choosing more sustainable lifestyle.

girl with open hands

In September 2020, when ELU project courses started, our supervisors invited us to take a personal challenge for the upcoming 6 months that contributes to sustainable development for a better future. After taking many steps already towards sustainability, it was quite difficult for me to pick one challenge and focused on it together with my work and studies. Finally, I decided to reduce my meat and animal products consumption to one portion per week. In my sustainability path, I have learnt that it is important to set goals that are achievable according to my personal needs and my own pace and that’s the reason I didn’t go for being totally meatless but chose a goal that I can actually achieve and reward myself for the steps I have accomplished throughout the process.

My Greek origins make the process of giving up on meat and dairy products seem impossible as the dominant value system associates meat with wealth, health, happiness and financial stability. Especially, for older generations that have survived the war and the famine, having meat on the table is very important and they cannot understand the younger generations that choose not to eat it. 

Furthermore, my diet for years was based on meat as it was a fast, easy and tasty solution to cook combined with my limited preferences for other kinds of food.  After my 20s and my travelling all over the world on a low budget, I started tasting new things from different cuisines and I broadened my taste horizons. This experience I could admit that changed me as a person too as I started being more open-minded, taking more risks and being curious to try new things. 

This summer, I was lucky enough to participate in the EIT Climate KIC Journey where I learnt a lot of things regarding nutrition and food systems and how they affect climate change. That was an enlightening moment to understand that I can change my nutrition, fight against climate change and have a healthier lifestyle. Later on, when the ELU project started I felt that this is my opportunity to accept that challenge and make a big change in my life. 

One of the first habits that I needed to reconsider and reevaluate was online delivery food. It was a fast and convenient solution as I had limited time to shop and prepare my own food. As a result, I was facing many times the dilemma of a high price for a non-meat meal or a cheap price for a meat meal. That situation made me realise that I spent quite a lot of money for food that doesn’t satisfy me, and month by month I started reducing the frequency of ordering food online and increasing the purchase of vegetables and legumes. 

Moreover, this change brought me closer to my family as well and specifically with my mum as she is a queen in her kitchen with great experience and tasty and successful recipes. I have spent hours with her talking on the phone and sharing tasty traditional dishes. I finally overcame my fears that I was carrying with me throughout years that I would never cook so well as she does (well, I think some skills pass on through generations and my cooking skills are quite similar to hers). My vegetarian traditional recipes became also a reason for friend gatherings and food sharing which was a great reward and motivation for me to learn more and more and experiment with new recipes. My latest discovery was a vegan blogger that shares vegan recipes and since I got this challenge to reduce my meat (and animal based products) consumption patterns I started experimenting with vegan desserts and I pretty much enjoy it! That’s my first step in vegan cooking. 

Besides my main meals, I had to transform my breakfast meal. My intention was to shift to plant based milk but I had to ensure consistency as I had tried many times to make that shift in the past with no success. For that reason, this time I decided to “trick” my mind and introduce plant milk with a healthier habit. I decided to subscribe to a service that brings to my door every month a box of dried organic fruit and vegetables in a powder form. I started combining them with plant milk to make healthy smoothies to start my day. I am now using it for six months in a row and I feel very excited that I have reached the point that I can consume plant based milk even without the smoothies (my personal preference is oat milk and I am very happy that an Estonian company finally produces it). The next step of this challenge, is to make my own plant based milk in the near future.

Our habits regarding food consumption are very crucial for the environment, the people around us and our health. Food is the power that our brain and our body needs in order to perform their tasks in everyday life. Would you ever choose a type of petrol that is not suitable for your vehicle? Why then you choose food that harms your organism? What we eat indicates who we are, what are our values and principles in life. Taking steps towards sustainability are beneficial for ourselves, the society and the natural environment. Challenge yourself and  choose your next sustainable step in your daily life. The results might surprise you! 

Happy Veganuary!