First, let me start off by saying this is NOT an article advocating for vegetarianism. While I admire vegetarians and their various noble causes, I personally could not live a life without meat. But even though I am very much a carnivore, I've recently become more and more aware of the fact that not all meat is created equal

More specifically, I've realized just how bad the beef industry is for the environment. The main reason for this is the way many beef producers feed their cows. Cows are meant to eat grass, but feeding them corn-based grain is much cheaper.

Michael Lim

Cows naturally produce methane gas during digestion, but these corn-based diets make them extra bloated, creating even more methane, which is much worse for the environment than carbon dioxide. It's been estimated that the cows in the US produce more greenhouse gases than 22 million cars each year.

Additionally, cows also take up a lot of space, much more than chickens or pigs. It's been estimated that cows take up almost 30% of the earth's total land area. With beef consumption increasing around the world, humans are cutting down more and more trees to make space for more cows. This does even more damage to the earth, since trees can absorb the gases given off by cows.

And, I'm not done. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just a single pound of grain-fed beef. In total, a single quarter-pound burger results in the emission of 6.5 pounds of greenhouse gases. Which, okay, maybe doesn't sound that bad, until you realize how much beef we eat.

hamburger bun, lettuce, cheese, beef, french fries, ketchup, sandwich, bread, bun, hamburger
Alex Frank

Americans eat three times as much beef as any other country in the world – about three burgers worth of beef per person, per week on average. In 2015, total US beef consumption was 24.8 billion pounds. Yeah, billion. And while we've started decreasing the amount of red meat we're eating, we can still do better.

If all Americans cut out just one burger or serving of beef per week, that would have the same effect as each person taking their car off the road for 350 miles. The following are ten ways you can do just that:

1. Ginger Sriracha Turkey Burgers

Emmy Daniels

Turkey burgers have a bad rap for not being as juicy or as flavorful as their beef brethren, but this recipe is working to improve the turkey burger's reputation. Serve with purple sweet potato fries for a healthy and sophisticated twist on the classic burger and fries pairing.

2. Copycat Trader Joe's Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

sandwich, avocado
Abigail Wilkins

If you're a Trader Joe's fan, you've probably tried these at least once. They are bomb, but sometimes it feels good to eat something that didn't come out of a box for dinner. This copycat recipe is just as tasty, and even more satisfying knowing you made them yourself. 

3. Spicy Chickpea Burgers with Sriracha Mayo

bread, sandwich, salad, vegetable, lettuce, cheese
Charlotte Cohen

If any of you vegetarians out there hate the taste of store-bought veggie burgers, this recipe is for you. And to the carnivores: these burgers are so flavorful, you won't even miss the meat. Don't sleep on the sweet potatoes fries—they really complement the spice of the sriracha.

#SpoonTip: This recipe requires lots of chopping, so save yourself some time and do some meal prep earlier in the week.

4. Thai Peanut Mango Turkey Burgers

sandwich, cheddar, onion, cheese, bacon
Alexandra Capello

Mango in a burger isn't something you see everyday, but the bold and creative Thai flavors in this recipe show just how versatile turkey meat can be. Serve with a refreshing cucumber salad on the side and you've got a meal that no fast food chain can beat.

5. Vegan Chickpea Mushroom Burgers

peanut, chicken, butter
Kristi Cook

If you've never had a non-meat burger before, try a mushroom-based burger. Mushrooms (especially shiitake) gives patties the meaty texture and flavor of real meat. Plus, making your own veggie burgers can be a lot healthier than buying them.

6. 3-Ingredient Turkey Burgers

meat, beef, pork, meatball
Rachel Davis

If you cook often, you know that some burger recipes, regardless of what meat is being used, have ingredient lists that rival the wordiness of a biology textbook. Not the case for these babies—with just 3 ingredients, you'll have a quality meal ready in no time.

#SpoonTip: These burgers are relatively plain, so take some inspiration from the best burgers across the country and go nuts with the toppings.

7. Black Bean Burgers with Sriracha Aioli

avocado, sandwich, bread, lettuce, meat, beef, guacamole
Parisa Soraya

Personally I've never been a fan of black bean burgers, but I would probably be willing to give these a try, because hey, everything just tastes better with sriracha mayo. This whole recipe costs only $4 to make, which comes out to less than $1 per burger — a smart choice for the body and wallet.

8. Mediterranean Lamb Burgers

Turkey and chicken are often the go-to meats when trying to substitute beef, so lamb often gets overlooked. However, lamb's higher fat content actually makes for a more flavorful burger. This recipe puts a Greek spin on an American fave with feta, olives and oregano.

9. Bison Burgers with Fresh Corn Mayo

Straight outta the Midwest, bison burgers are the closest in taste to beef burgers, while being healthier and more sustainably raised. Bison actually has less fat and more protein than normal beef. Because of its leanness, bison also cooks faster than beef, so you can get your burger fix faster.

10. Bon Appetit's Blended Beef-Mushroom Burger

If you've never heard of blended burgers, that won't be true for long, as they are quickly becoming the future of the gourmet burger industry. Blended burgers use a blend of mushrooms and sustainably raised beef to create a burger that is both healthier and more eco-friendly than your average beef burger. 

If this concept interests you, check out the James Beard Foundation's Blended Burger Project, a contest that challenges participants to send in pictures and recipes of their own blended burger creations, in order to advocate for more sustainable and healthier practices in the burger industry.

Hopefully, after reading this article, you'll think before buying that pound of beef at the grocery store or ordering that burger at a restaurant. It's not about cutting beef out of our diets completely, it's about making smarter choices about how we consume it. 

Consider doing Meatless Mondays with your roommates, or if you want to be more extreme, watch this TED talk about being a "weekday vegetarian." Personally, I've decided to only eat beef when I'm eating out, and have stopped buying it at the grocery store. If we all commit to making small changes, they can have a huge impact. The Earth, and future generations, will thank you.