Like me, you may have heard some high-minded encouragements to consider #veganuary as a way to stave off environmental degradation. While I join many vegans in being concerned about confinement animal agriculture for it's extremely toxic concentrations of manure and the unsustainable feed sources behind it, I think that a more considered approach would be more helpful to address a problem as wide-ranging and complex as the ecosystems we inhabit.

In contrast to concentrated animal feeding operations, animals raised in holistically managed landscapes are allowed to play their role in ecosystem function: birds bring in fertility and sanitize the grasslands. Forest floor omnivores like pigs aid in pest management, decomposition and nutrient cycling through dispersed minor soil disturbance, grub hunting in rotten logs, consuming fallen tree crops, and manure-based fertilization. And ruminants like sheep trim grasses and other pasture plants, stimulating new growth above and below soil, actually burying recently-atmospheric carbon -potentially for millennia.

Veganuary is well intended, and certainly less-bad than unconsciously consuming. But eating your ecosystem in a participatory fashion every month actually solves the problems created by animal and plant concentrated monocultures: toxicity, runoff, carbon release, habitat loss, and the like.

We of course produce food in this way. If you're not near Louisville, KY, is a great resource for finding similar producers. Other options moving in the right direction in this region (in January) include eating more (ideally organic) tree fruits and nuts, going into the forest with your children to gather hickory nuts and chickweed (potentially more inspiration and education than calories will be harvested this way. But inspiration and education are quite powerful forces!), or purchasing responsibly grown annuals from farmers who take care to return surpluses to their soil and integrate ecosystem function in their gardens: We regularly eat from Rootbourn Farm, Pavel's Garden, Field Day Farm, Valley Spirit Farm, and Barr Farms, and encourage others to do so as well.