Vegan Living

01/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

With the passage of Proposition 2 in California, which bans farmers from raising some farmed animals in small cages by 2015, and Sarah Palin's interview in front of turkeys being slaughtered, animal rights have been commanding a bigger role in the mainstream consciousness just in the past few weeks.

As a vegan for three years, animal rights play a role in the decisions I make every day - what I eat for breakfast, the fabric in the purse I carry, the material of the shoes on my feet, even the type of nail polish remover I use. I choose foods and items that do not contain any animal products, including meat, eggs, leather and gelatin. I'm lucky that I live in New York City because I have lots of choices for shopping and restaurants, but no matter where you live there are creative and thrifty ways to help animals, which will also help you and the planet.

Being a vegan requires some self-discipline, but the rewards are worth it. A vegetarian saves about 3,700 gallons of water a day compared to a meat-eater because of how much water farmed animals drink and how much water is used to grow the crops those animals eat. Talk about a good excuse for long showers. Plus, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world's greenhouse gases, which is more than transportation. Go ahead and get that hybrid car, but steer it towards a health food store and away from the McDonald's drive thru.

Non-meat eaters don't just help the planet - they also help themselves. In The China Study, the most comprehensive study of nutrition conducted, Dr. T. Colin Campbell found that plant-based diets reduce the risks of heart disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. By going meatless you'll look good and feel even better.

In Vegan Living I'm going to discuss these and other benefits of a meatless diet and also answer the questions people ask me almost daily about my lifestyle, such as how I get enough protein, where I buy shoes and why I don't drink cow's milk. And I'd love to hear any questions you have about living vegan.