Living Sustainably: Holland group boosts plant-based food options

By Rebecca Bochenek, Veg Lakeshore
Are you looking to improve your health or help save the planet? The plant-based movement is thriving and building steam in Holland and West Michigan.
A few years ago, when you went out to eat, your plant-based food options may have been limited to a baked potato, salad, or soup. Now, more restaurants are adding menu items such as jackfruit tacos, black bean burgers, hippie hash, vegan baked goods, non-dairy milk options, fresh juices and much more.
And what about all these massive storms, heat waves, fires, and so on that are consuming the United States? Climate change is real, and humans can change that course. You have the power to help by what you are putting on your plate!

Eating a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent in greenhouse gases of 1,160 miles driving, according to a fact sheet from the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems.
Meat products have much larger carbon footprints per calorie than grains or vegetables because of the inefficient transformation of plant energy to animal energy. For example, 47.6 percent of the greenhouse gases from food consumption come from meat, compared to 4.9 percent from vegetables, 3.6 percent from fruit and 3 percent from grains. A four-ounce serving of meat generates about 6.5 pounds of carbon dioxide compared to a small fraction of a pound per serving of rice, legumes, carrots or potatoes.
A local group has organized to help both your and the planet’s health. Veg Lakeshore started in September, 2013 when Mary Jackson moved to Holland and realized a need to promote healthy plant-based practices. She, Rebecca Bochenek, and Debra Williamson formed a meetup group which held potlucks, tabled at local events and visited local chefs to encourage vegan/vegetarian options on menus.
In the past five years, the group has built a network of members throughout West Michigan who are searching for a more sustainable, ethical and healthy way to live. The mission is to connect people and network with businesses to build a more compassionate, healthy community.
Events include Meatless Mondays at Nuestra Casa, a community house of Westcore Neighbors. At each potluck, a speaker presents a 30-minute talk on topics ranging from climate change and composting to gardening or recycling. And owners of businesses come in to discuss their veg friendly products.
We encourage all ages and appetites to attend. Each month has a theme such as Dutch Delights, Local/Seasonal, or Plantsgiving. Everyone is encouraged to bring a recipe for those with food intolerances or who practice a certain way of eating.
This month’s event is a Dunton Park picnic tomorrow, at 5:45 p.m. Monday, July 16. Bring a vegan or vegetarian dish with recipe. Check out the Events link at the Veg Lakeshore Facebook page for more information.
Also, a monthly Grapevine newsletter includes information about our Meatless Monday potluck, farmers market directory and a Vegan/Vegetarian Resource that includes menu items for many restaurants in the area. Email to be added to our Grapevine mailing.
 Rebecca Bochenek is Veg Lakeshore co-founder/organizer, a plant-based chef, and animal advocate.

More Online:
For a detailed list of vegan and vegetarian-friendly offerings at area dining establishments, click on “Our Story” on the Lakeshore Veg Facebook page.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.