You have to do more than put lettuce and cabbage on your lunch platter.
Sipping on your morning chai while fixing an egg sunny side up, you glance outside to see the sun struggling to shine through polluted skies and a road crammed with traffic, and you wonder – when will people start thinking about the earth.
Concerns about the environment are inevitable, but doing so while enjoying a cup of milky tea and an egg makes you part of the problem not the solution, say experts.
Because consumption of animal-based and dairy products is also responsible for pollution, just like emissions from vehicles plying on the road, they explain.
Transitioning towards a more plant-based diet could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70 percent, says a study by the US-based journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The solution, say experts, could be as easy – or as tough – as going vegan.
Veganism is the practice of abstaining from eating or using animal products. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan.
"Going vegan is the single biggest step you and I can take to save the environment today. Non vegan food is responsible for more than 50 per cent greenhouse gas emissions,” said Vichitra Amarnathan, a proud vegan.
"Also, maximum fresh water is used for rearing animals for the meat industry and in dairy farming. It is something that helps solve many issues at once," the marketing executive added.
As the concept picks up steam, several restaurants in the national capital are serving special vegan dishes for World Environment Day tomorrow.
Zing at The Metroplitan Hotel & Spa, for instance, has been rolling out mulligatawny soup, vegan Chicago pizzas, baked organic rolls and more since yesterday. The festival will go on till June 6.
"Gong vegan can save the world. A lot of the food that's grown in the world isn't being eaten by humans. In fact, 70 per cent of the grain grown in the US feeds livestock and, globally, 83 per cent of farmland is set aside to raise animals," said Shailendra Bhandari, executive chef, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa,.
Several eateries, such as Rose Cafe, Smoke House Deli and Cafe Turtle, make it a point to cater to vegan customers with specially curated menus.
But what about the protein that comes with the fully-loaded non-veg meal? It is expensive, too, right?
"Vegan dishes are fully equipped to take on a non-veg meal. We have dishes like khow suey, a Burmese dish full of natural herbs spices and lot of veggies, on our menu. Also, being vegan is not expensive," said the chef.
Amarnathan adds that a vegan diet is expensive only if one is looking for a substitute in everything.
"If we want to substitute everything then yes it may be expensive. Like almond milk is more expensive than dairy. I just use soya milk and coconut milk in my coffee as a creamer (not a whole glass of it), so it's not that expensive for me," she said.
For regular Indian food - veggies, whole beans, sprouts, nuts - it's not that expensive at all.
"I think prawns, salmon, etc are far more expensive than what I eat," said Amarnathan, who has been a happy vegan for over three years now.
Also, thanks to the increased awareness related to the ill treatment of farmed animals and the widespread environmental degradation, the concept is not limited to food alone.
The market is flooded with vegan brands in fashion and cosmetics as well.
"Earlier, lanolin, which is derived from sheep, was used as an ingredient in many cosmetic products. But with increasing consumer awareness, companies stopped manufacturing products with lanolin,” said Himanshu Chadha, founder, APS Cosmetofood, which makes a range of cosmetics.
"We use 100 per cent natural ingredients which are grown organically and the products are manufactured without using alcohol, surfactants, paraben and other chemicals which help in saving the environment to a great extent," he added.
There are many sceptics too.
According to environmentalist Gourab Bandyopadhyay, veganism is another "new topic to showcase at social platforms to increase one's followers".
You have to do more than put lettuce and cabbage on your lunch platter. The situation is grim, and if you really want to make a difference grow your own vegan food, says the environment impact analyst.
"Make your own garden, use daily organic waste from kitchen to make manure, then use it as food for your plants. Grow vegetables because beside from giving you vegan food it will give you some fresh oxygen also," he added.