The South End’s Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint: Plant-Based Diet


by Mark Van Streefkerk

Just a few weeks ago, we sweated in the hottest June weather in Seattle history. Triple-digit heat can be dangerous, especially for vulnerable populations and homeless people. The heat wave prompted the city to coordinate cooling stations – including libraries, spray parks and beaches – as June 28 hit a record 108 degrees, capping a three-day period of temperatures three digits. The heat wave also affected many non-human lives. In Vancouver, British Columbia, the heatwave in June killed a billion marine animals. Such impressive numbers could have disastrous consequences for ocean life and interdependent ecosystems.

The main reason for Seattle’s increasing warming (overall, Seattle has warmed by 2 degrees since 1900) is climate change. Climate change occurs when greenhouse gases trap heat and warm the planet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency: “Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past 150 years. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States comes from the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation.

A carbon footprint is a calculation of the amount of greenhouse gases that a person, or a population, generates. You can calculate your own carbon footprint at The Nature Conservancy. (That’s super interesting!) Scientists have been sounding the alarm bells about climate change for decades, and while there is much to be done globally to turn the tide of the climate crisis, decisions that we take in our daily life are some of the things we have control over.

the emerald explores the changes South End residents can make to reduce our carbon footprint in a new series of articles. In this first installment, we examine how eating lower down the food chain is not only more sustainable for the planet, but also plays an important role in the health of our communities and food justice movements.

The truth about meat

Factory farming is one of the most environmentally unsustainable industries on the planet. According to the Guardian, “Deforestation to make way for livestock, along with methane emissions from cows and fertilizer use, create as many greenhouse gas emissions as all cars, trucks and planes. of the world. ”

Diets high in meat, especially beef and processed meats, contribute to higher rates of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. These are the same health issues that disproportionately affect black communities. The good news is that a plant-based diet has been shown to significantly reduce these same health risks and at the same time require less energy to produce, which means a lower carbon footprint.

Living plant-based

Keith Tucker founded Hip Hop Is Green circa 2008 to promote the benefits of plant-based diets through hip-hop. Tucker grew up in the Central District and also lived in the South End. Hip Hop Is Green started out by serving plant-based meals to young people and families. From their first dinner, they “toured the country, serving free plant-based meals to young people and families for over seven years. We have served over 10,000 meals across the country, ”Tucker said.

Hip Hop Is Green now has chapters in major cities across the country. The organization was preparing to host its biggest event ever at the Seattle Center before the pandemic called off large gatherings. The enforced interruption of events led to the decision to renovate their Cherry Street farm at 1911 East Cherry Street. “We’re totally converting what we used to do into hydroponics,” Tucker said. “You can’t have acres of land in an urban area. In order to maximize the space we have, we cultivate in hydroponics.

The converted garden will include a teaching area to educate young people on how to grow vegetables.

“Using plants is a great way to not only bring health and wealth to your community, but also – climate change is affecting the whole world. We can see it here during our summers, ”Tucker said. “If we start educating young people about these facts and teaching them how to be plant-based and how to grow their own food, that will be a good start. “

You can help Hip Hop Is Green by volunteering. They also have paid internship positions available for young people. Get in touch through their website or Instagram.

Increase access to locally grown products

Going plant-based looks great on paper, but what does this practice actually look like in a food desert? South End communities are traditionally underserved, especially when it comes to healthy eating. It is a matter of food justice and empowerment that goes beyond simple individual health. Clean Greens Farm & Market was founded in 2007 by the Project of Black Dollar Days task force – a group of local African American business owners – to create access to locally grown produce and provide education on agriculture and healthy eating. Clean Greens rents a 21-acre farm in Duvall, run by chef farmer Tom Willis. The farm provides organic vegetables to low-income communities in Seattle.

Clean Greens is more than a farm. Signing up for a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) subscription (paying in advance for 16 weeks of produce boxes) helps provide fresh vegetables to other families in need. The farm also offers a youth education program in partnership with the Black Farmers Collective, where kids can build their own planters and learn how to grow vegetables in addition to food justice. Clean Greens also has a show on Rainier Avenue Radio where they talk about farming and more. “We can move from the health issue to the repair issue,” said Brione Scott, director of Clean Greens. “Clean Greens is about educating our community… because, you know, they don’t teach us that stuff in school. “

While bringing fresh vegetables to the community, the mostly volunteer team discovered that some households did not know how to cook certain vegetables. So Clean Greens started distributing recipes and this year launched a newsletter with recipes and facts about the vegetables on offer. “In the last issue, we had kohlrabi. A lot of people didn’t know what it was or how to cook it. We added a recipe. We added the health benefits and the different ways they can cook it, ”Scott said.

Currently, products grown by Clean Greens Farm include collard greens, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, squash, carrots, romanesco and more. They distribute CSA boxes and vegetables every Saturday and Monday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the New Hope Baptist Church at 116 21st Avenue. A distribution site in South Seattle is currently under construction.

Sign up for the Clean Greens newsletter to get recipes and more through their website, or email [email protected] directly. Clean Greens is always accepting new volunteers.

In recent years, more and more black-owned farms have sprung up, such as the Black Farmers Collective and Nurturing Roots. Over the past year, Black Star Farmers has reclaimed urban space for community farms. Scott is encouraged by the increase in BIPOC managed farms and food projects. “I feel like everyone is more and more aware of the food injustice for people of color. Everywhere I turn, there are more and more conversations about it and how we access it and how we promote it, ”she said.

Another organization that works to put fresh produce in the hands of low-income communities is Plant Based Food Share, led by chef, herbalist and activist Ariel Bangs. Launched in mid-March of last year, the volunteer-run team hand out boxes of produce and other offerings such as pantry staples, vegetables, sanitizers, and sometimes groceries. prefabricated. Sign up for a free box of food, or find out how you can volunteer or donate here.

Action measures

Fortunately, plant-based living is a growing branch of activism for South End communities, and it leads to a reduced carbon footprint. Growing or buying produce locally eliminates the need to ship it from other states, further reducing the fossil fuels needed to bring us food. Here are some more tips for switching to an herbal lifestyle:

  • One of the biggest misconceptions about a plant based diet is that you suddenly have to go 100%. Not true! Living plant-based, or avant-garde, means making fruits and vegetables the main or common staples of your meals and snacks.
  • Cut down on the amount of meat you eat, especially beef, the biggest generator of greenhouse gases. Ideas like “Meatless Mondays” are a great place to start. For a quick swap: make a veggie burger substitute. (This vegetarian classic has many iterations, from “old-fashioned” black bean burgers to today’s Beyond Beef or Impossible Burgers.) Consider making one or two of your meals without meat most of the time.
  • Support a local farm owned / operated by BIPOC with a one-time or ongoing donation, or a volunteer.

Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based freelance journalist and writer living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. He often writes on specialty coffee, LGBTQ + topics, and more. Visit his website at and follow him on Instagram at @markthewriter.

📸 Featured Image: Farmer Tom Willis stands outside Clean Greens Farm in Duvall. (Photo: Janelle Bighinatti)

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