Confessions of a Vegetarian

Here's a peek at what's inside this vegetarian's lunchbox.

Here’s a peek at what’s inside this vegetarian’s lunchbox.

By Austin Holmes, Sustainability Office

I stare down at the miscellaneous, multifarious bowl of rice, beans, lentils, and quinoa. How did I become a vegetarian? Let me tell you.

I was once a voracious carnivore like many others, insatiable in my desire to put my incisors to their biological use multiple times per day. I enjoyed eating meat, that’s how I grew up, and I miss it still. Plus, I disdained the thought of eating leaves and seeds. That’s what vegetarians do, isn’t it?  So, you ask, “Why then did you make this life transition?”

Austin Holmes shares his thoughts on food systems, and vegetarianism with the Sustainability Office.

Austin Holmes shares his thoughts on food systems, and vegetarianism with the Sustainability Office.

Ecological destruction. What? Yes, destruction, disruption, ruination. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s land surface is used for livestock. To use that land, whatever previously occupied it must be removed. One report states that “an estimated 70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon basin can be attributed to cattle ranching.” In addition to the deforestation, meat production “cause[s] more greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and the like to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry.” Pertaining to water use, “Researchers at Cornell University concluded that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing one kilogram of grain protein.”

These few examples above are only the tip of the iceberg. Certainly this is troubling news, but back to my original question: Why am I a vegetarian? Well, this information spurred my initial motive to transition from meat-eater to veggie-eater, but this transition was easier said than done. I loved eating meat, and giving it up was not easy, both in terms of psychological connection and physical health. It took some failures, and some getting used to, but I finally got there. For those who have seldom eaten meat throughout their lives, this is not always a difficult change, but for those of you like me, who love eating meat, but want to shift to vegetarianism, here are a few tips:

  • You don’t need to go cold turkey (pun shamefully intended). Don’t try to stop eating meat all at once. I tried this. It did not end well. Instead, try weaning yourself off or make small goals, such as no meat for one week.
  • Do your research beforehand. There are a lot of great resources out there (especially online) that can make the transition easier, if only to help you know your options. This Vegetarian 101 guide is a good start: http://www.happycow.net/becoming_vegetarian.html
  • Look to others for help. Experienced vegetarians/vegans are great resources, both for information and support. You also might discover a new community of friends.
  • Be creative with it. It isn’t just leaves and seeds. Find what non-meat options appeal to you most, then experiment.

Life changes like this are difficult, but worthwhile. Even if fully cutting off meat from your diet doesn’t appeal to you, I encourage you to simply reduce the amount that you consume. Every little bit helps. Take it from someone whose diet consisted mainly of meat for twenty years: It can be done.

Austin Holmes is a sustainability ambassador for the Sustainability Office.

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