By: Laura Fylyshtan

Over the past couple of years, you may have a noticed a growing trend among B.C. youth: they are increasingly vegetarian or vegan.

In fact, Kelowna has quite the vegan community itself. Just this past January the second all vegan market filled with over 200 people within minutes of opening (read more here) and the all vegan Naked Café downtown is a consistent crowd pleaser.

While many adopt a vegan lifestyle because of ethical considerations, there is also an environmental element.

According to Marian Weber, Environmental Economist at InnoTech Alberta, recent years have seen increased consumer pressure on the agricultural industry to take better care of the environment. The beef industry in particular has faced a lot of pressure. Beef, says Weber, is ten times more damaging to the environment that other forms of livestock.

Not only does the beef industry use a lot of water to raise cattle, but their manure also pollutes the water resulting in damage to our grasslands and wetlands.

While there are measures farmers can take to improve water quality and biodiversity, these measures are often costly and time consuming.

In help combat farmer reluctance, the federal government launched the Growing Forward program in 2008 and Growing Forward 2 in 2013. This is a cost-share program where farmers can apply for financial assistance to implement on-farm environmental action plans.

Unfortunately, Marian Weber says participation rates have been low.

Consumers, however, are expressing their dissatisfaction with their dollars by choosing to purchase vegetarian and plant-based options.

A decade ago, dining out on a vegan diet would have been a challenging task, but now it is common practice for restaurants to highlight vegan and vegetarian friendly options on their menu. Local venue Social242 even has a dedicated vegan menu on their website.

UBCO is also catching on to the vegan wave. In addition to their vegetarian burger, the school recently introduced the Beyond Burger; a GMO-free plant-based burger. (For the record, it’s delicious!)

Much of this trend is student led. UBCO recently put on their annual TED talk and two of the student’s talks addressed veganism and environmental concerns.

For fourth year PPE student, Rob Velzeboer, veganism is something he’s passionate about.

Rob Velzeboer, Source: UBCO TEDx

He hopes that through his Ted talk, YouTube channel and conversations with friends, people will begin to see the merit of a plant-based diet.