By Ericka Carr |

My kitchen was home to a tiny picnic table built by my grandfather. It hosted my kool-aid tea parties, my coloring sessions, and my long-waged war against brussel sprouts. My mom made me sit at the table for hours waiting for them to disappear from my plate while I begged her to replace them with another green food, any other green food. 

Eventually, she’d give in, walking my plate over to the trash can to scrape my slimy enemies into the bag. To be truthful, brussel sprouts are the only vegetable I remember hating besides boiled spinach, but I don’t think anyone likes boiled spinach. 

There are patterns in our past that help make sense of our current life. Considering the fact that I ran through the house with a stick of celery in my hand, it’s no surprise that I’m a vegetarian now. 

When I made the decision to stop eating meat 11 months ago, I thought it was some valiant protest against the meat industry. A fight for the cattle fed so much corn their bodies are sliced open to clear their backed up intestines. A protest for the chickens grown too fat and so quickly they can’t even walk, living in houses so full most don’t even live long enough to become food.

I found out recently that my battle is mostly fruitless. 

By continuing to eat eggs and dairy, I continued feeding the problem. It was later that I found out the problem isn’t just how the food is processed, but also how it’s grown. See, farming in the U.S. produces more greenhouse gasses than humans do. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 50% of the world’s habitable land makes up pasture and cropland. That’s a lot of farms. If we take a second to consider what goes into farming (tractors, processing plants, feces), it’s no wonder that Earth is dying. 

The WWF’s website says, “25% of global land use, land-use change and forestry emissions are driven by beef production. Including conversion of forests in the Brazillian Amazon.”

Not only are we adding to the amount of greenhouse gasses already in the atmosphere through beef farming, but we’re destroying the land that produces one-third of the planet’s land oxygen to do it. 

Environmental regulations and farming practices vary by region. That means action changes by region. However, the general consensus is that we need to stop eating meat. Pronto. Limiting the consumption of meat limits the demand. In turn, it limits the production. 

Faunalytics, a company that provides the public access to facts about unfair animal treatment, claims that animal farming uses 115 million more acres of land than plant farming. Think of all the open land that could be saved from destruction if we trade weekly barbecues for monthly ones. 

As much as vegans and vegetarians are mocked for their extreme diets and loud protests against the food industry, they’re on the right path. Which begs the question, what actions are you taking to save the environment? 

A plant-based diet isn’t everyone’s definition of a good time, but it is an easy solution to a difficult problem.

People often ask, is maintaining a vegetarian or vegan diet sustainable? Can you do so healthily? Of course! 

The average male needs about 56 grams of protein a day while the average female needs 46 grams. I promise that’s not as much as you think. The only difference between a plant-based diet and traditional diet is that you have to eat more food to get the same amount of protein. 

Who has ever complained about upping their calorie count? 

In a plant-based diet, you have to constantly be conscious about the nutrient content of your food. Sticking to whole foods like chia seeds, whole grains, greens, beans, nuts, and legumes ensures a healthy well-rounded diet. This list may sound intimidating to someone that’s used to calling chicken, potatoes, and broccoli a healthy meal (I used to be that person too), but you can throw all of this into a bowl and have a delicious salad that keeps you full until your next meal. 

Because awareness about the benefits of plant-based diets is growing, more and more companies are working to find substitutes for your favorite foods that are packed with essential nutrients. It’s easier than ever to make the switch to veggies. 

Being a vegetarian has made me feel healthier, stronger, and more energized than ever before. If living sustainably means giving up chicken nuggets, I’d say it’s worth the sacrifice. 

Join me in choosing a vegan diet for the month of October, and be on the lookout for my next piece: College-Student-Friendly Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes!