Actress and environmental activist Alicia Silverstone discussed her journey and lifestyle as a vegan and explained how nutritional choices affect the planet to an audience of more than 700 people at the University of Central Florida Thursday.

Silverstone, who is also the author of “The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet,” noted the many benefits that can be gained from a plant-based diet during her presentation, which was part of the UCF General Education Program Unifying Theme: “The Environment and Global Climate Change.” The program was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office.

Silverstone began by stating that, although she was “raised on meat and loved the taste,” she decided to try vegetarianism when she was 8 years old. However, because of her young age and the absence of a support system, she was back to her normal diet within a month or two. “I didn’t want to hurt animals, but I was in total denial that my actions were hurting them,” she said.

It was only after attending an animal-rights meeting in 1998 that she realized her eating habits made her “disconnected” and “hypocritical.” Silverstone’s decision to become vegan was more successful in 1998 because she had a stronger support system. For example, her then-boyfriend (now her husband) decided to join her on this life-changing endeavor.

Moreover, Silverstone said that at 21, she was wiser and more aware of the consequences of her actions. “This is my truth, and I need to follow it,” she explained.

Silverstone stated that veganism is the best thing that ever happened to her. “The choice I made for another creature saved my own life,” she said, explaining how she lost weight and had fewer issues with allergies and asthma.

Veganism is just one way in which Silverstone is reducing her own impact on the planet. “The thing that I care about also heals other individuals and the environment,” she explained.

For instance, she is proud of the fact that she is very conservative with her water usage. Not only does she strategically use less water at home, Silverstone attests to the fact that eating less meat also helps to save water resources.

“To produce one pound or 16 ounces of steak, you need the same amount of water used for about six months’ worth of showering,” Silverstone said.

Referencing a 2006 United Nations report on the livestock industry, she noted that it is responsible for a greater destructive impact on the planet than the entire transportation industry. She also noted that it is ironic that so many resources go into raising cattle, when these very cattle are responsible for so much environmental damage.

Silverstone encouraged the audience to realize that every little choice makes a huge difference. She said she wrote her book “to show everyone that it’s not all for nothing.” She concluded by saying that whether you care about your health or you care about the environment, making choices that are nutritional and healthy are beneficial overall.

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners included the UCF Student Government Association, the UCF Office of Undergraduate Studies, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship Program, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Political Science Department, UCF LIFE, UCF Focus the Nation and the Global Connections Foundation.