One year later: 90 vegetarian

September 20, 2019

This week marks the one year anniversary of me going 90 percent vegetarian. I’m not even sure if this is the right week, or if I’m really 90 percent vegetarian, but it’s a nice round number and fitting for my theme this week.

In order to really understand why I decided to (almost) go vegetarian, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

I arrived at Brandeis two years ago in fall 2017 as an eager-eyed freshman, taking too many classes (already) and part of a Leader-Scholar Community (LSC). There were 18 people in my cohort. We all lived together on one floor and took an experiential learning course together one day a week. The topic of our course was sustainability, led by Professor Sabine von Mering (GRALL/ENVS/WGS). 

I wasn’t very attuned to sustainability and climate change efforts prior to Brandeis. I did my best to not use plastic water bottles, but that was about it. However, being in that class helped me realize the importance of saving our planet and doing anything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. 

Within my first month at Brandeis, I stopped eating red meat. This wasn’t a huge issue because chicken was the main meat that I saw around the dining halls. 

My second semester at Brandeis, I took another course with von Mering (European Perspectives on Climate Change) and became a Brandeis Sustainability Ambassador (BSA), which I’ve been ever since. Taking this course and being a BSA showed me how easy it is to make small changes that make the biggest difference. Whether it be eating no red meat or taking public transportation, I learned that every little action counts. And I wanted to teach people this ideology as well. 

In the fall of my sophomore year at Brandeis, I did an internship with Sustainability Manager Mary Fischer, where I did research to look at the environmental impact of meat consumption on campus. My research found that in just one academic year, Brandeis consumed over 250,000 pounds of meat in the form of fish, chicken, beef, turkey and lamb. This equates to over 300 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions being put into the air just from the meat that is consumed on campus. 

Amid doing this research, I decided to go (almost) completely vegetarian. I cut out all meat products except for fish. I would cut fish, but I love sushi way too much to let it go. Nowadays, I eat fish about once every other week, if that. 

Has it been difficult at times? Of course. But oddly enough, I don’t crave meat anymore. I would admit, at the beginning, and even now, I was tempted by a piece of chicken in the dining hall, knowing I had the freedom to eat it. 

But the only thing I ever really craved was McDonald’s chicken nuggets. But my vegan substitutes are close enough to the real thing. I think. 

I became vegetarian at a time when technology and food scientists were thriving. Everyone has heard about the Beyond and Impossible Burger, which are made to look like actually bleeding burgers! 

I have had both, and I have very strong opinions about one over the other. I personally think they taste close to meat, but my friend tells me I couldn’t be more wrong. I’m sorry I haven’t tasted a beef burger in two years. 

But what I can’t stress enough is that these substitutes should not be seen as a healthy alternative to beef patties. Oftentimes, they are even worse for you because of the random proteins and binders that are in the patty to get it to the texture that is close to meat. 

But reflecting on the past year as an almost vegetarian, I have come to realize it’s really not that hard. There is always a good selection of options while at home, and it is super fun to see different ways that I can incorporate vegetarian alternatives into classic meat dishes.

At its core, my reasoning for being 90 percent vegetarian is meat’s environmental impact on the earth. The effects of climate change are starting to take shape all over the world, even in the United States. And if we do not act to reduce our carbon footprint and GHG emissions, we are screwed. 

Going meatless for one meal a week is already a good starting point toward reducing your carbon footprint. It’s a matter of taking baby steps when we are trying to tackle climate change that makes the biggest difference.

And for those who are passionate about the climate or want to do more for the earth, whether it be on a political or personal level, it’s completely possible. People all across the world will be striking the day this is published, Friday, Sept. 20 in the Climate Strike. And there’s one happening in Boston! Or if you want to make a difference on a personal level, think twice about those two burgers that you’re thinking about grabbing when you’re in the dining hall. Grab some vegetables instead.

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