You are what you eat?!

Are you a vegetarian? I get asked this question a lot, for example when I order a vegetarian meal somewhere or explain what I am studying. The answer to the question is always pretty complicated:

Yes kind of, but not completely… I do eat meat, but only very little. I eat completely vegetarian at home, but if I am somewhere else I sometimes eat meat. I don’t want people to cook separately for me and to end up just making more and throwing away more. Furthermore I like eating meat and sometimes just feel like eating some. I also have to be a bit more flexible in my actions because of my histamine intolerance… If all vegetarian options contain soy, I have a problem. But if they don’t, I’ll mostly go for them

But I don’t really want to give such a long answer every time, and not everybody will want that much detail.

I also don’t really like to use the word flexitarian, as it can mean anything from I eat vegetarian once a week to I eat meat once a month. Furthermore what I eat is determined by a lot more factors than simply meat or no meat. It went so far that I did not even going grocery shopping with myself became really annoying. In a supermarket I spend most time in the fruit and veg department, where I walk from box to box and check my criteria: “This has flown halfway around the world, I don’t want that. No, that’s double packed in plastic, I don’t buy something like that. That looks good, but I can’t eat it… And that over there I don’t really like.” This way it can take quite a while for me to find enough to make my vegetable stir-fry  and fill my breakfast bowls. But I have to say that I am quite surprised each time how many different kinds I do get together in the end. If you start paying attention you can find quite a lot of vegetables produced in Germany and sold without packaging. It gets a bit more difficult with fruit, but you can always find 2 or 3 types. Nonetheless it always needs quite some effort and also time that many people simply do not have (this is one of the areas where it needs actions from governments and buyers both to get to the best result… well that’s a different discussion). I now buy my food at the food cooperative shop Schwarzwurzel in Leipzig. In this shop regional and unpackaged are part of the concept and there I enjoy going to buy groceries with myself again. This possibility is of course not available everywhere, therefore: see bracket above.

All this I see as part of how I eat. Furthermore I also consume very little other animal products without being a vegan. Those animal products I do consume I buy in glass containers which have a deposit on them. For a while I thought to make the right choice when using an oat-drink instead of milk – until I saw a documentary about Tetra-Pak®. Now I prefer taking organic milk that comes in a glass bottle.

And the explanation of how I eat has become even longer. I doubt that everybody asking me whether I am vegetarian has half an hour time to listen to my answer. For this reason I would like to summarize all of this in one word that I can use in these situations. Those that are interested can ask and get the whole story, the others can accept that word as the answer. My new answer to this question now is: “No, I am ecotarian”. Of course just as it was with finding a name for a blog, whenever you think you have a creative idea, somebody else has already come up with it. Looking for the German version (Ökotarier) on the internet does not give many results, but it appears to have been used one or two times. The English word seems to be somewhat more established and even has a definition in the Urban Dictionary and dictionary.com, where it is defined as “a person who eats only food that has been produced in an environmentally friendly manner”. Even though I would maybe give a somewhat more detailed explanation, which would include packaging and transport of the food, this definition rings close to what I mean.

In my search I also came across facebook page named simply ‚Ecotarian‘ with 265 (266 now) likes, it could do with a few more. This facebook page links to the website of Toni Toney, who explains the concept in a bit more detail, but differently from what I would have done and also different from the dictionary definition. Apparently even this small movement different schools are developing. Toni Toney has a spiritual approach to the topic and sees our current problem in that humanity has lost the connection to their body, the planet and their creator. As I myself am not religious at all, this approach does not really appeal to me. However, if one were to leave out all the things directly related to god, I think we would find ourselves to be on the same page. Her ideas, that the environmental crisis of the planet is simply a reflection of the environmental crisis within ourselves and that both are result of us using the wrong type of fuel, are in my view and interesting and quite accurate assessment.

Even if the up to now only website on ecotarianism does not completely resound with me, I will keep using this term and make my own lifestyle more and more ecotarian. Want to join?

Picture Source: Andy Happel

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