Climate change is — finally — top of mind for many around the world, thanks in large part to the young people who are speaking out on the issue. From this year’s TIME Person of the Year (16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg) demanding change from world leaders to millions of kids marching in protest of inaction on climate change to many more young people doing their part to make the world a better place, the kids definitely have a voice. And as these world issues are becoming entwined in our everyday lives, the kids are also realizing that their actions — and their diets — have a widespread effect on our environment.
One such kid, Evan, aka “Vegan Evan” as he calls himself, is on a mission to “fight climate change with diet change.” At just nine years old, Evan is one of the youngest members of Gen Z. He’s the president of Animal Hero Kids and ambassador of Million Dollar Vegan, and now, he’s challenging President Trump to go plant-based for the month of January. If the president concedes, Million Dollar Vegan will donate $1 million to a veterans organization of Trump’s choice.
The young activist called upon the president in a full-page ad in The New York Times, as well as billboards and TV ads, and is continuing to spread the word.
Speaking with SheKnows, Evan explained why he’s fighting so hard to teach people about veganism: “This cause is so important to me because of my grandma and my grandpa and my mom and me and my friends and people I don’t know and the animals and the planet. I have so many reasons that this cause is important to me, and [going vegan] will help all of those reasons.”
Evan also seemed to feel the urgency of fighting climate change, telling SheKnows, “Climate change does scare me because I want to like, be able to grow up and I know that it’s really bad,” he told SheKnows. “It causes really bad storms, floods…Florida, part of it is going under water soon, and it’s really sad.”
So as he looks towards solutions, Evan explains that avoiding meat, or better yet, all meat and dairy products, would have a significant impact on reducing greenhouses gases.
“All the forms of transportation in the world combined is not even as much greenhouse gases as farming animals,” Evan tells SheKnows.
And he’s not wrong. According to The Guardian, animal agriculture is the second highest source of emissions and uses about 70% of agricultural land, a leading cause in deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.
In addition to the harmful effects food production has on the environment, one of the most potent greenhouse gases comes from the livestock we’re raising for meat. Methane, which is 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the Earth, is put into the atmosphere every time a cow burps. And seeing as beef is so widely consumed, specifically in the U.S., this is posing a real threat to our planet.
Luckily, today’s youth understand this more than ever. Jack Kramer is another Gen Z-er from SHE Media’s Hatch: Raising Gen Z project. for which we followed 25 kids for five years to chronicle their uncensored — and ever-shifting — perspectives on current topics from climate to confidence to tech. 14-year-old Kramer tells SheKnows that while he would struggle to go vegan himself, he believes “the swelling amount of people indoctrinated into veganism is a sign of positive change for how kids approach the food and the planet.”
Of course, deciding to go vegan is a personal choice and should definitely be a discussion with your own kids, but it’s worth noting that just making an effort to reduce the amount of meat we consume can still make an impact.
Another Hatch teen, Skye, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, tells SheKnows that they gave up beef last New Year’s — and they’ve been following a vegetarian diet since the beginning of summer.
“I knew about the environmental issues it caused as well as the abuse that the cows in the vast majority of beef farms endure and decided I no longer wanted to participate,” they explained.
As for their decision to go completely vegetarian, Skye explains: “Beef had always been my favorite type of meat, and after finding out how easy it was to give that up, it wasn’t long before I decided that I wanted to give up meat entirely, especially because going vegetarian had always been something I wanted to try.”
And, as one would assume, Vegan Evan eats an entirely vegan diet and is quick to point out the additional health benefits of living a plant-based lifestyle. “Some of the health issues that come from eating animals are pretty much all the world’s leading diseases, including America’s No. 1 killer: heart disease,” Evan tells SheKnows. “And they’re proven to be able to be prevented and even sometimes reversed by a plant-based diet… Really, I think that if most adults knew the facts, then they would go vegan.”
It’s unprecedented that kids — from Evan to Greta — have such a powerful voice in today’s society. Whether they’re changing their diets to become more plant-based or not, their conscientiousness nonetheless gives us hope that the next generation is growing up to be self-aware and dedicated to progress. As they should be; they’re the only future we’ve got.