On Nov. 19 and 20, I will be on my e-bike, pedaling from my house in Las Pinas City to The Spine at Blue Bay Walk in Pasay City, to indulge in the company and food offerings of Asia’s longest-running and biggest vegan food festival, the VegFest Pilipinas.
The reasons I’ll be on my e-bike and not in the creature comforts of a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle are two-fold: 1) I’m anticipating the horrendous Metro Manila traffic (Nov. 19 is a Saturday, back to pre-pandemic weekend traffic), and; 2) I’d be aiming to leave behind the smallest carbon footprint that I can as an individual. Hence, I call this “running on empty”, because there literally won’t be any fossil fuels involved on my way to and from the event, and my tummy will also be running on empty, as I plan to eat to my heart’s delight at the gathering of the who’s who in the local vegan food industry.
I can only wish that all, if not the majority, of visitors to food fests such as this would realize how two seemingly unrelated sectors—transport and food—have become the most environmentally impactful human activities. If you’re mindful of the resources you use in one, but are wasteful in the other, well, that’s just like one step forward, two steps back, isn’t it?
Animal agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. In fact, animal agriculture accounts for a bigger carbon footprint than all transportation combined. According to a United Nations report, cattle-rearing generates more global warming greenhouse gases, as measured in CO2 equivalent, than transportation. It is also a major source of land and water degradation, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Worldwide meat production (cows, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, pigs, poultry and marine creatures) emits more atmospheric greenhouse gases than do all forms of global transportation or industrial processes as published by Scientific American.
Animal agriculture produces 65 percent of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions, which has a global warming impact 296 times greater than carbon dioxide. Raising livestock for human consumption generates nearly 15 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, which is greater than all the transportation emissions combined.
Karlie Konzachi of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Environmental Center (zero waste outreach team), wrote that “the animal agriculture industry is the leading cause of most environmental degradation that is currently occurring. These detrimental effects happen due to overgrazing, habitat loss, overfishing, and more. We are currently in the next mass extinction and animal agriculture is only fueling this catastrophe. Waste in the meat industry, too, is a major problem in and of itself.”
Right now, fossil fuels are the dominant energy sources in transport and power-production sectors. Thankfully, alternative energy sectors are working overtime to do something about this. As individuals, we can do our part to minimize our use of emissions-heavy fuels. For me, the optimal “combo” for a truly minimal carbon footprint is by going on a completely plant-based diet (no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal by-products in my diet, something I’ve been on for over 20 years now) and, whenever possible, ditching the gas-powered car for the e-bike for my trips and errands. If it can’t be helped and I have to use my car, then the best I can do is to practice defensive driving (wherein you can be both safe and fuel-efficient).
Through my profession as a motoring writer for nearly three decades, I have had the privilege of driving some of the world’s most fuel-efficient cars, and also some of its thirstiest gas-guzzlers. I have to admit, driving the latter did generate the most fun behind the wheel. Those “oohs” and “aahhs” do eventually fade, however, and are now replaced by the “nyikes!” brought on by the current fuel supply issues, urban congestion, and of course, the elephant in the room, climate change.
Right now, what would make me happiest is seeing the parking lot of Blue Bay Walk empty on Nov. 19 and 20, and the parking lots filled with two- and three wheelers, e-powered or foot-powered. And then The Spine, where the VegFest Pilipinas main activities will be held, would be filled with people engorged in cruelty-free, planet-friendly plant-based goodies.
Urban paradise, for me, is seeing foot- and e-powered traffic take over the streets, in parallel with tastier plant-based, completely animal-free food taking over our palates. This paradise sees no life, animal and human, cruelly treated and killed while we enjoy the best of what life can offer.
With that, dear readers, I am personally inviting you to VegFest Pilipinas on Nov. 19 and 20, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. I can guarantee you, the experience will be both mouth-watering and eye-opening, just like it had been for the past seven editions of this annual food fest. If you think going meat-free or plant-based is expensive or inaccessible, then you haven’t encountered such brands as UnMeat and Umani, two of the more prominent merchants at the upcoming VegFest. There are also homegrown artisanal products such as those created by Greenery Kitchen and Bahay Kubo Kitchen.
You not only fill your tummy with food but also get your fill of eye-opening insights from speakers such as environmentalist Peachie Keen & Green, food revolutionary Nona Andaya-Castillo, animal rights advocates Nancy Siy and Karlo Cleto and singer/actress Maxene Magalona.
If you do decide to drop by (preferably with your families and/or friends), try going there on your bikes, and on an empty stomach (bring your own bike locks, though). The free samples alone may already fill you up. But do show your appreciation by buying the products that do sit well with your taste buds. Take note of the merchants’ numbers and contact details for your own family’s holiday feasts.