Why I Chose Not to be Vegan at the Mountain School

Ariane Desrosiers (‘19)
Milton Academy 

It shouldn’t come as a shocker that animal products, from meat to eggs to honey, are bad for the environment and for the animals themselves. Producing one kilogram of beef, for example, means producing another twenty-seven kilograms of CO2, something that adds up when you consider that the average American eats around 271 pounds of beef a year (1, 2). With agriculture accounting for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, saving our planet will soon have to become synonymous with eating more sustainable foods (3). 

I have always been a staunch supporter of animal rights, ethical eating, and sustainable food production. Having been a vegetarian for three years, I’m committed to restricting my diet for the betterment of the planet and the creatures living on it. After trying out the vegan diet for a month last April, I decided that once I started the new school year I would make the switch from simply vegetarian to full-on vegan. This was a hard decision seeing as after the summer, I would be attending the Mountain School, a semester program that has a reputation for the best school food you can find out there, in regards to both taste and sourcing quality. 

So, instead of making the leap to becoming a vegan, I stayed vegetarian at the Mountain School because I wanted to experience, for once in my life, being able to eat animal products without feeling guilty about where they came from or how they were produced. I think it’s a sentiment that all of us wish we could feel, but our current global food production methods are so unsustainable that it is unlikely our generation will ever see a future where all food is no longer a result of exploitation, abuse, pollution, and countless other externalities. 

Luckily, there are places where food doesn’t have to come with those costs, and the Mountain School is one of them. The Mountain School is a school situated on a farm in Vershire, Vermont (a.k.a. the middle of nowhere). Because of our large campus and access to free land, we had the opportunity to farm a wide variety of vegetables and fruit, as well as the chance to raise a large number of animals. Some of the animals at the Mountain School include chickens, sheep, cows, pigs, and a singular llama (named Desmond). We would eat all the meat, eggs and honey that came from our animals. All our food was organic, fair trade and local (a.k.a. within a 250 mile radius) and we composted any leftovers. We would also make our own cider, maple syrup and teas. We produced most of our energy through solar panels on campus as well. 

The emphasis that the school places on making sure that all facets of the institution were sustainably managed was relieving for me. After years of searching for a place where I could finally eat guilt-free, finding the Mountain School was a blessing. However, now that I have returned to Milton Academy (yay?), where I don’t have the privilege of knowing where and how my food is made, I’ve converted to a full-time vegan, in order to limit my carbon footprint for the sake of the planet. 

So if you currently don’t know if your food is sustainable and what to make a better change for the planet, my recommendation for you is to go vegan. Or at least eat less animal produce. One less burger goes a long way. 

(1) Cernansky, Rahcel. “Meat Eater's Guide: Get to Know the Carbon Footprint of Your Diet.” Treehugger, 18 Jul. 2011, https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/meat-eaters-guide-get-to-know-the-carbon-footprint-of-your-diet-lamb-beef-cheese-are-the-worst/.
(2) Barclay, Eliza. “A Nation Of Meat Eaters: See How It All Adds Up.” The Salt: What's on Your Plate, NPR, www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/06/27/155527365/visualizing-a-nation-of-meat-eaters.
(3) Jasiunas, Lukas. “Food Waste, Animal Products, And Greenhouse Emissions.” Faunalytics, 9 Aug. 2017, faunalytics.org/food-waste-animal-products-greenhouse-emissions/.