One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint – and your environmental footprint generally – is to reduce your meat consumption. If you’d like a visual to help you understand why eating less – or no – meat is so beneficial, check out this article by Visual Capitalist. Eating less meat is not just better for the planet, it is also better for your health and better for your wallet. Who could ask for a better New Year’s resolution?!
A note to the reluctant reader: Listen, I know people like to eat meat. You may have thought about becoming a vegetarian before – or even tried it – but felt like it was too hard. Or your family might not be on board. Here are a few different ways to go about it. See which one works for you.
6 Easy Ways to Cut Back on Meat in 2021
Say goodbye to beef. Giving up beef is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. Compared to potatoes, wheat, and rice, beef requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases per calorie. Compared to pork and chicken, beef requires 28 times more land and produces five time more greenhouse gases per calorie. Giving up beef would make a huge impact and is pretty easy to do. If you don’t feel like you can give beef up entirely, maybe choose to only eat it from a restaurant or only eat it on holidays.
Limit when you eat meat. If you feel intimidated by the idea of going vegetarian or vegan, try cutting meat out from certain meals or certain times of the day. While Meatless Monday is appealing (and you should definitely start there, if you need to), it’s probably not enough. Maybe Meatless Monday, Wednesday, Friday? Several authors have ideas for how to do this, including Suzy Amis Cameron’s One Meal a Day, which advocates eating vegan at least one meal a day, and Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 , which suggests eating vegan until dinnertime. You could also choose to indulge in meat only at holidays or only when dining out. Or try out a Veganuary this month.
Limit where you eat meat. When my husband and I first moved in together, he quickly realized that making meat-based meals for just himself, while I ate vegetarian, was pretty inefficient. He became a self-proclaimed “restaurant carnivore”, choosing to eat vegetarian at home and to eat meat at restaurants and other people’s houses. Choosing to be vegetarian at home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and your food budget. Conversely, you could also choose to be vegan at restaurants to explore new foods and get ideas. Looking for restaurants with vegan and vegetarian menus in NH? Visit the Happy Cow for a list.
Limit the amount of meat you eat. Choose recipes that limit meat in favor of other proteins, like beans and peas. Instead choosing to eat burgers or steak for a meal, which focuses on the meat, choose recipes like soups, casseroles, stir fry, or bowls, where meat is just a flavoring. You can limit your meat consumption easily at the grocery store by deciding to only buy a small amount of chicken and fish each week.
Switch to meat substitutes. If you’re feeling nervous about making the switch to a vegetarian diet, I strongly suggest using meat substitutes as a stepping stone. There are some pretty great choices out there nowadays. The Kitchn has a fun chart to help you find the perfect meat substitute for you. I am not a huge fan of meat substitutes personally (they are over-packaged), but we definitely have a small stash of Beyond Burgers in our fridge for when we get invited to a cookout and these Field Roast sausages, which we eat like hotdogs when we go camping, are delicious.
Become a vegetarian (or even a – gasp – vegan). The most effective way to reduce your meat consumption is, of course, to cut out meat entirely. If you’re the whole hog kind of person (excuse the pun), then this might be easier for you than any of the above plans. Try a Veggie Challenge and go from there. Or there are countless cookbooks, blogs, meal plans, and guides to help you on this journey (do an Ecosia search!). It is totally doable, healthy, and satisfying. I have been a vegetarian for the last 25 years and my husband has been a vegetarian for 10 years. We were vegan for five of those years, but now eat eggs, yogurt, and, occasionally, cheese. Our children (ages seven, five, and one) are all perfectly happy without meat and milk.
Just some vegetarian and vegan food photos to give you an idea of what we eat at our house.
I hope that one of these six methods seems doable to you. I am here for you, if you have questions. And I am going to focus on providing recipes, meal plans, cookbook suggestions, and other advice this month. If this resolution isn’t for you, though, please check out the other 11 Green Resolutions I posted yesterday!
Are you thinking of giving up or limiting meat in 2021? What is your plan?