I became a vegetarian in 1998. There were few if any non-meat options on most menus in those days. I remember being in Munich and ordering the one thing labeled vegetarian, and I literally got a warmed pickle on a plate.
The first few years were tough. I was constantly explaining both what it meant to be a vegetarian and why I was eschewing meat. Many thought my new lifestyle meant chicken and fish were OK to eat (it’s not). Many servers didn’t even attempt to hide their eye-rolls when I inquired about making meat-free modifications. I was mocked, questioned, and told I was wrong.
However, it was a conversation starter. Through those discussions I educated friends and businesses about the carbon footprint of meat. I discussed its negative health consequences. I demonstrated through my actions that you could lead a meat-free lifestyle and be OK.
Over time I got better at explaining it. I converted some of my friends as well as got others to eat less meat. I discovered new cuisines that I would have never tried had I not searched for new recipes. Giving up meat didn’t feel like a loss. I gained a new way of exploring the world through the food on my plate.
Giving something up can feel like your own mini-boycott, as you are constantly saying ‘No’ to something for ethical reasons. What I didn’t realize at the time is others were doing the same, and that the aggregate of those actions over time helped move society forward when it comes to offering more meat-free options. Back then I never thought I’d see the day you could get a vegan Whopper! It seemed impossible to me (pun intended).
I hope you will do the same when it comes to giving and receiving holiday gifts. Join the Christmas Climate Strike and give up gifts this holiday season. Do not buy or receive them. Use this as an opportunity to discuss climate change, our wasteful consumer culture, and other ways to get involved. You can forward this post to your family and friends to get the discussion started: Buy Me No Gifts and I’ll Do the Same.
Hopefully in time wasteful traditions will be a thing of the past.