I have been a vegetarian for two years. I have cut meat out of my diet because I want to do any simple thing I can that benefits the environment, and if that means cutting steak out of my diet, I’m okay with that. Eventually, I want to become vegan for the same reason. I understand that not everyone has this goal in their lives. Not everyone wants to sacrifice their favorite food for the sake of their carbon footprint. However, I’m here to tell you that it would be wise to consider it. I’m not going to tell you that it’s healthier, because Oreos are vegan and I could eat a sleeve in less than a minute. What I am going to tell you is that if more people, a lot more people, became vegetarian or vegan, we would be taking a major step towards slowing down climate change.
Most of us are not living on a farm and eating meat from that farm, so we have little to no idea where the meat is coming from. The production of that meat involves a lot of release of greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to global warming. Emissions from livestock, mostly from burping cows and sheep and their manure, currently make up almost 15% of global emissions. Think about how many times you eat meat in a day. Imagine how much meat is produced in the U.S. in a year. According to the North American Meat Institute, in 2013, American meat companies produced 25. 8 billion pounds of beef. That’s a lot of meat. A lot of that is excessively more than the daily recommendation for your diet. Most people have heard about climate change, but a lot of people are unaware of the effect their steak dinner each night has on it. In order to slow down climate change, we all need to begin to cut down on our meat intake. Most public “green” organizations are afraid to tell people to let go of their burgers, for fear of consumer backlash, but I am here to tell you: if you claim to have any concern for the environment, cut down your meat intake. There’s basically no reason not to. “I need meat to be healthy!” You really don’t. A plant-based diet can be just as healthy, if not more, than one including meat. Everyone thinks they won’t get enough protein, but you will. Especially in the UNCC dining facilities, there are always vegetarian options including tofu, beans, or cheese, all of which have high protein. Iron is easier to get than people think. You can get iron through peanut butter, broccoli, and most leafy greens. I know, steak is delicious and a good burger is an unmatchable meal. I was like that. Believe it or not, steak used to be my favorite food. Once in middle school, I tried being vegetarian for the stereotypical “I love animals” reason, and when my mom made steak later that week, I caved. I understand that to some people, this would be a big alteration to their diet. I also understand the people who say: “If I do it, it won’t make a difference,” and that may be true to you. I thought that was the case for a while. But then I realized I couldn’t continue to contribute to this industry when I have the resources to eat a more plant-based diet. For all the people I know that care about the environment and aren’t meat-conscious, if they all went vegetarian, it would be a lot fewer people demanding that large consumption of meat. If these companies produce so much meat and it isn’t eaten, eventually the production will go down because they are wasting their money. You can make a difference. I have more and more friends cutting meat out of their diets, and all of them rave about how much better they feel, morally and health wise. One of my friends was so excited to no longer be a hypocrite when it came to her passion for the environment, and that’s how I feel, and I hope you see it that way too. In my opinion, anyone with a concern for climate change should cut out the steak and burgers and transition into a more plant-based diet, because if you can make a difference merely with your food, why don’t you?

Madison is the Editor-in-Chief for the Niner Times. She is a junior double majoring in Communication and Spanish, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Madison is from Fayetteville, North Carolina, so naturally she loves J. Cole and has seen his house more times than she can count. When she isn’t binge watching a TV show or writing for the Niner Times, she’s working at Mellow Mushroom, drinking iced coffee or attending a concert with her friends. For any inquiries, she can be reached at editor@ninertimes.com.