The age of industrialization, while life-changing, also brings about pollution, climate change, and world-ending prophecies in the news once every few months. As these issues grow more prevalent and realistic, it’s pretty important to figure out what little ol' me can do to help counteract the effects, and even more important to figure out what we as an entire society can do. Lucky for all of you, I’ve done my research so you don’t have to. Here are five things you can change in your diet to help make the world a little bit better.

1) Go Vegetarian or Vegan

vegetable, stir-fry, tofu, pepper, noodle, meat
Katherine Baker

Who needs meat when you have tofu? 18% of the livestock industry contributes to greenhouse emissions, and cattle farms are 32% of that problem. I know what you’re all thinking right about now: “I can’t imagine not eating meat”. The funny thing is that I was saying the exact same thing just a month before I became a vegetarian. However, once I made the decision to stop eating meat, I realized I never really missed it. There are plenty of delicious and nutritious meat substitutes in today’s world—in fact, scientists are even beginning to experiment with growing meat in labs so we don’t have to slaughter animals for food. Oh, you think lab meat is gross? Wait 'til you see where your meat comes from.

When I dove deeper into the logistics around it all, I found out that the average family of four emits more greenhouse gasses from consuming meat than driving around in two cars. Ever since I can remember, the rhetoric has been against industrial factories and the number of vehicles on the road, but it seems that our own minds have been polluted as we focused on these industries when the biggest problem lies in agriculture and livestock. This isn't to say industrialized factories and cars aren’t part of the problem, but certainly not as much as the meals we’re consuming three times a day every day.

So now what? Where does the change start? If you're used to preparing meals with meat, here are some great vegetarian recipes and vegan recipes to try out once or twice a week. Even the smallest change helps!

2) Grow Your Own Garden

herb, relish, vegetable, oregano, care, Harvest, Gardening, Garden, farming, planting, Plant, Grow
Alex Frank

Now that we're eating less meat, we're definitely going to need something to fill up that space. More fruits and veggies are always the right move, but the ones you buy from the store are loaded with GMOs and produced using mass amounts of fertilizers that create nitrous oxide, one of the big players in global warming. The agricultural industry alone contributes to 12% of the issue, so it's especially important to cut down where we can.

Growing your own garden is definitely an environmentally-friendly way to get those fruits and vegetables you'll be using in those recipes. Plus it's a fun hobby to get into, and can be quite rewarding when that tomato plant ripens for the picking. Think it's too hard or too time-consuming? Think again

Most foods, such as lettuce, zucchini, radishes, and carrots don't take up too much time or space. You just need vegetable seeds and about nine square feet of area to plant. Even if you don't have this space, there are plenty of pots that can be used to grow fruits and vegetables. 

People tend to exaggerate how much care a small vegetable garden requires. It's not nearly as high-maintenance as you may think. When I was younger, we grew peaches, strawberries, and radishes and all we had to do was put them out in the sun and water them once in a while. So even if you insist you don't have a green thumb, I'm sure you can get something growing if you check in on those plants every once in a while. As long as you do that, you're on your way to saving the world.

3) Switch to Organic

Whole Foods Market, vegetable aisle, watermelon, mango, juice, veggies, Green, lettuce, Vegetables, fruit aisle, cabbage, salad, Organic, organic fruit
Shelby Cohron

Okay, so maybe you really really don't have a green thumb. No problem! There are still ways to make the world a better place. Switching to organic products is actually an alternative approach that the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) promotes. It's a renewable way to fight against climate change and usually helps support the small farmers in the community as well.

I know what you're all thinking right about now: "Organic? You mean the expensive stuff?" Well, yes, organic produce can be anywhere from 10% to 30% more expensive, but that's only because of all the regulations that are required to certify that the food is, in fact, organic. If everyone jumped on the organic food train, prices would definitely drop (and so would the smog in the air).

And really, let's calculate this out. If a pound of baby carrots is $1.50 and you add an extra 10% to that cost, that's only fifteen cents more. If it's 30%, that's only 45 cents more. We're talking less than a dollar difference in the grand scheme of things. Besides, we're saving the world here—so if we have to pay a little more now to ensure that we have a grocery store to shop in a hundred years from now, one might say the trade-off is worth it.

4) Stop Overconsumption

chocolate, sweet, candy, milk
Katherine Baker

Now that we know to eat organic, it's time to focus on cutting back food waste. Nearly one-third of all food produced specifically for human consumption is thrown out. This means that while you're throwing those leftovers away, thinking nothing of it, a landfill is piling up somewhere else that will lead to 25% of methane emissions. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. Especially when we're on the brink of creating irreversible effects to the climate. 

What can we do to stop overconsuming? For starters, try taking a look at the serving size of whatever you're about to cook and compare it to a food pyramid. One of the biggest problems I have personally borne witness to is cooking too much. By the time we get to our fourth day of leftover turkey, we're all tired of it. Whatever's left is inevitably thrown out, and mom's on to cooking something new.

Try to rationalize the number of people you're cooking for and how much they will all realistically eat. If you're intent on making extra, try not to make more than another day's worth. People tend to get carried away on holidays such as Thanksgiving when there are typically 20+ dishes for twelve people. Feel free to cut down on and cut out what's unnecessary, because I promise you—nobody's going to finish that cranberry sauce. Being conscious of what you consume and how you consume makes you one step closer to helping save the world.

5) Own Your Own Farm

Big Chill, Ice cream parlor, cow
Dorothy Berger

Okay, I know—this one sounds crazy. You're probably thinking, "I have to take care of my own garden and my own farm?", but hear me out. This final step definitely isn't for everyone, but I'm not talking the whole nine yards of horses, cows, and pigs (oh my!). Before I get into the logistics of why a farm is actually quite reasonable in cost and living space, let me tell you why yours will hinder global warming.

Big Industry animal farms mass produce cattle, chicken, and pigs in terrible, overpopulated conditions in order to make the most revenue. This overpopulation is a big factor in global warming, seeing as there are more of these animals on the planet than anyone can handle. It's what leads to all the greenhouse gas emissions that are sending the world into a spiral.

But what if you had your personal farm? Owning your own farm means that you wouldn't be giving big farming industries the revenue they desire, and you'd also be providing for yourself with the animals that will fit comfortably in your backyard.

Costwise, chicks cost anywhere between three and five dollars each and are relatively easy to take care of. Once the chicks grow older and their eggs start coming in, you'll realize that you only need a few hens to amass a good amount of eggs since they're popping one out each day. With three hens, this means that you're getting around fifteen eggs a week.

Of course, beyond that, you can raise your own dairy cow, but that's a bit more high maintenance than the humble backyard chicken. You can also experiment with growing your own garden to produce fresh vegetables. 

At the end of the day, as our world begins to deteriorate, our society has to step up to the plate. It might feel like one person can't do much by making these adjustments in their daily routine, but the more people that do, the closer we are to creating meaningful change to the environment. And whether you make the switch to buying organic produce or go all out and own your own farm, you're doing everybody a favor. By making one, two, or five changes in your daily life, you're not only creating a healthier environment for yourself, but for the world. We can save it together; one meal at a time.