One of the biggest reasons why people are reluctant to strive for a more sustainable life is because of stereotypes and stigmas related it to it. One of the biggest of them all is that you have to give up meat as well as other animal products. The reality is much different, and although big changes like this are welcome, its not completely necessary, after all a life without cheese is no life at all! This post can help you with small changes that can allow a sustainable life without giving up what you hold dearest, as well as some information on why its such a big topic.

Why is agriculture such a big issue?

Animal agriculture is a talked about topic and many people are switching to meat free diets, not only to prevent animal suffering but for the effects it has on our environment, and there are many! Here's 8 of the key facts:

1. Animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the worlds transportation systems combined

2. It takes 683 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of milk (8 pints) and 2400 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef - that's a lot of water

3. Runoff from factory farms and livestock is one of leading causes of pollution in our rivers and lakes

4. It takes 20x more land to feed a meat eater than someone on a plant based diet

5. More than 90% of land that has been cleared in the amazon rainforest is used for grazing livestock

6. Livestock produce a greenhouse gas (methane) which accounts for 20% of the world’s climate-changing gases.

7. 40% of worldwide fish catch is "bycatch", sea animals that were unintentionally caught are often thrown back in dead or dying:

- 300,000 small whales and dolphins

- 250,000 endangered loggerhead turtles and critically endangered leatherback turtles

- 300,000 seabirds, including 17 albatross species

8. Bottom trawling and Purse seine gear account for more than 53% of global catch, these methods clear the ocean floor of all life and can damage coral reefs

References: take a look for more info

How to keep your meals but save the world

Buy local and sustainable

If you can, buying from local butchers and farms in your area can help: - reduce food miles

- more aware of how the animals are being treated and where your food is coming from - reduce waste, free to only buy what you need - reduces plastic packaging

Changes like this don't only apply to meat products, checking packaging for the sources of all food and buying products like free range eggs can make a difference!

Meal Plan

Meal planning is simple and effective way to reduce waste, as you are only purchasing the produce you need. Meal planning is also great for finances, as a student it really helps me to plan ahead, I don't buy excess and when I do my big supermarket shop I get everything I need and there's no need to go to convenience stores. Food planners are a good way to start but its easy enough to note on your phone your meals for the week ahead.

Replace a few meals a week

Start by setting a target of how many meat free meals you are going to have per week, you can cut down by making small changes to your favourite meals. One example from my experience is having chickpeas instead of chicken in my fajitas, its cheaper and even more delicious! You'll probably find a lot of your meals already vegetarian (or vegan) especially breakfast and lunch. Meat Free Mondays is a great way to start and still makes a huge difference. They even have their own website full of tasty recipes if you're feeling stuck. As time goes on you might find you are only having 2 or 3 meat meals a week, but make sure you are always incorporating protein into your diet. Easy steps like adding cashew nuts can help as meat makes up a lot of our protein intake!

My journey

My sister turned vegetarian many moons ago, we are a big family and we enjoy cooking big meals and eating together. This meant that we had to adapt recipes to cater to her needs and over time we found ourselves eating more and more vegetarian meals. As my passion for the environment and all things green grew, I felt a lot of pressure to become vegetarian as the two are normally put together.

Although I am not technically a vegetarian, the amount of meat I eat is very small. At home I normally only had meat when it was just my Mum and I; when I went to University I found it easier and cheaper to cook without it. It was simple for me as I already knew loads of great recipes from my sister, but there are so many resources online if you feel like mixing it up. I now find myself unconsciously going for vegetarian options when eating both in and out. Sometimes its nice to not label things and allow yourself the freedom to chose, but perhaps I'm just a closet vegetarian. You just have to remember that being imperfectly vegetarian or vegan is much better than no change at all.

Thanks for reading,

Antonia :)

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