Why I'm vegetarian: the environment and personal reasons

Why did you become vegetarian?

This is my final post in a series answering this question I've gotten many times over the past 17 years I've been vegetarian. A lot of people expect a simple response, but there are four main reasons I'm vegetarian: health, ethical, the environment and personal. In this post, I'll explain the latter two reasons, starting with the environment.


Photo credit: PETA PSA adThe simple truth is that if all of us just reduced our meat consumption, it would have a profoundly positive impact on the environment. When we think about carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil, we immediately blame the auto industry. But the reality is the meat we eat creates more greenhouse gases than the cars we drive. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that the livestock industry accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than is produced by every form of transportation combined.

A few more stats, according to the Environmental Defense Fund: 

  • If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.
  • If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads.
  • Having one meat-free day per week would be the same as taking 8 million cars off American roads.

For some reason, consumers are told that to save the environment we need to drive less, conserve energy and recycle, but rarely is it mentioned we should eat less meat. Perhaps you should give it a thought: simply changing your diet for one meal a week (how about a PBJ for lunch?) is something anyone could do without much of a fuss.


Lastly, the personal reasons I'm vegetarian. What it boils down to for me is that I've had the curiosity to explore and understand the health, ethical and environmental implications of eating meat. It then became a personal decision as to how far I could go to lean on the positive side of these issues and still be comfortable with my lifestyle. I don't really love the taste of meat, poultry and seafood and I can live without it, so I gave it up. I've never ever been tempted to eat meat because it was my personal preference to give it up. Sure, it's a little inconvenient when I'm eating out, but I don't mind the lifestyle. In fact, the vegetarian lifestyle makes me feel great physically.

But asking me to sub soy cheese on my pizza or macaroni and cheese...that's a lot harder for me personally. So I draw the line at eating full-time vegetarian and part-time vegan, and I'm comfortable with that being the best I can do. We all have that personal line to draw. Some people don't feel great physically cutting out meat. Some people really love a tasty cut of steak. I'm respectful of anyone's personal decision, as long as they have considered the health, ethical and environmental implications of meat consumption.

It's up to each person to consider the facts and make a lifestyle choice about eating meat. Maybe that choice is eating one less serving of meat per week or maybe it's becoming vegetarian or vegan. I hear all the time from people, "I could be vegetarian if I didn't have to give up ____." Well, it's not all or nothing! Why not give up what you can? My 7-year-old niece, Lillie, recently told her mom (who is not a vegetarian) that she did not like the idea of eating animals. She decided she could give up everything but chicken. If a 7-year-old has the intellect and critical thinking skills to analyze her food choices, us adults have no excuse.

I hope this series on why I became vegetarian was insightful and maybe inspired you to open your mind to evaluate your own eating habits and the impact they have on the greater good. Perhaps you will make changes based on what you've read. In any case, thank you for reading and thank you to anyone who has ever asked me, "Why did you become vegetarian?"