For one of my environmental classes, I had to find three ways to reduce my impact on the environment. Since we just finished the topic of agriculture and how much water the meat industry uses, I decided that I would look into attempting a vegan diet. A lifestyle change I knew would difficult for a Irish girl who loves her meat, potatoes and dairy. But, my drive was the grade and the environment, too.

pepper, pasture, vegetable
Chris Fethke

Overall, the first day went great with a few ups and downs. I was able to find great tasty food on campus that filled me up. What started to get to me was not being able to eat dairy. I love butter and I put it on everything. I'm not going to lie and say I didn't mess up. I'll be the first to admit that by the second week I lost some self control and caved a few times. 

One of my go to meals for breakfast was oatmeal with brown sugar with fruit. Prior to this project, I had no idea that my school's dining hall had amazing oatmeal so I was really happy that I could rely on something filling to start off my day. For lunch and dinner I stuck to salads, rice/grains, beans, and sweet potatoes. I indulged within the two weeks and got myself a bowl from Sweetgreen for the first time and I loved the variety.

Before I even began this project I followed tons of plant based youtube channels and instagrams. So I had a lot of inspiration that drove me to want to do better. But it also had the opposite affect where I felt discouraged because of the lack resources I have as a college student. I don't have money to throw around  and I can't afford to go to Whole Foods every week to buy everything fresh. But there are so many more ways to eat healthy on a college budget than I could have anticipated.

As a declared environmental studies major and decent citizen, I am always trying to make the best choices, but I need to remind myself to not beat myself up when I mess up. Changing a lifestyle that you were born and raised with is challenging. Go at a pace that is reasonable for you. Make responsible food choices when feasible. Try meatless Monday, and if that works out maybe try dairy free Monday too. There are so many ways you can reduce the demand for meat and dairy and positively impact the environment. If you eat meat every day, maybe try and bring that down to 4 times a week. At the end of the day, eat consciously, buy local and indulge when you want a treat.