By Lindsey Gallagher
Lindsey Gallagher (they/them) is a non-binary nonfiction writer from Shelter Island, New York. They are currently pursuing their MFA at Northern Arizona University. They serve as the Editor-in-Chief of Thin Air Magazine and teach English Composition. Their work can be found in The Oval and The Palhouse Review. Outside of writing, they enjoy running and outdoor adventures of many sorts.
Welcome to One Bite at a Time!
As part of my work for Green Writers Press this summer I wanted to create a blog that fits GWP’s mission to build awareness for the ongoing climate catastrophe. This blog will bring awareness to the impacts of animal agriculture on our planet. But it’s not just about awareness; it’s about action. Over the course of the summer, I will explore the various ways to reduce the impact of our current food system (hint: it involves a plant-based diet!) and be part of building a more sustainable one. My hope is to make the adjustment from a meat, egg, and dairy-based diet to a plant-based diet more manageable (to take it one bite at a time) to encourage a larger number of people to adopt a more sustainable diet. If you’ve ever considered adopting a plant-based diet (that includes vegan or vegetarian) or want to learn more about them then this is the place for you!
Topics this blog will explore include:
- The impacts of animal agriculture on the planet
- Benefits of reducing your consumption of animal products
- Practical steps for reducing your animal product consumption
- A guide to staple plant-based foods
- Reviews of my favorite plant-based products
- My own experience as a vegan and challenges I’ve faced in my journey
- Conversations with others who follow a plant-based diet
- Plant-based recipes for you to try
- And more!!!
Note: I will use both the terms “vegan” and “plant-based,” which are sometimes used interchangeably. They are, however, not the same thing. Here is how I define them:
- Vegan: a diet that excludes all foods that come from animals (such as meat, dairy, eggs, and, for some, honey).
- Plant-based: a diet that is mostly made up of vegetables, grains, and other foods that come from plants instead of animal products.
My journey to veganism
Growing up on Shelter Island
I grew up in a small town, an island actually, called Shelter Island. The island is nestled between the two forks of eastern Long Island and requires a ferry ride to get to. My hometown had a population just above 3,000. There is one school on the island that is K-12. The entire school has just over 200 kids. I had only 23 people in my graduating class in high school. Growing up on Shelter Island was a unique experience, to say the least.
As a kid I spent most of my time outside—either at the beach, biking around my neighborhood, playing in my yard, or taking camping trips with my family. A lot of our outdoor adventures were influenced by my dad, who has been a Forest Ranger for New York State all my life. From a young age he taught me how to both love and respect the natural world. He showed me how to take care of the environment and be responsible when in it (as in, be prepared with the right gear and know the place you are going. It’s irresponsible to just show up, that’s when things go wrong). Thanks to my dad I quickly became aware of various ways to decrease my environmental impact and be part of the solution to climate change. Still, we never talked about one’s diet as a tool for reducing environmental impact.
My hometown had only one small grocery store with limited selection and most restaurants were heavily seafood and meat based. You could find a few vegetarian options but finding a vegan option that wasn’t merely a salad would be a challenge. Of course, I never paid attention to this growing up on Shelter Island for I deeply loved my steak, cheese, sour cream, and milk chocolate. I did have an aunt who was vegetarian but I didn’t know anyone else who had a diet anything like hers, whether that was vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan, or simply plant-based.
Then I went to college. Spending my first year and a half of college in a big city (St. Louis) after growing up on Shelter Island was like entering a new world. Grocery stores were open past 7pm! In fact, I could get food at the dining hall until 1am. Something was always open and there were restaurants of all sorts—I could get any kind of cuisine I wanted. For the first time I was directly exposed to many types of food that Shelter Island didn’t have like Chinese, Mediterranean, Thai, Caribbean, and Indian. But besides trying new kinds of food I also met new people. This was the most diverse environment I had ever been in! Some of the people I met were vegetarian and vegan. These people, and noticing labels on foods in the dining halls, were my first introduction to the vegan diet.
Still, the idea of reducing my consumption of animal products was not something I considered for myself. I remember saying I would never and could never be vegetarian in high school. Why would I give up steak? And, as a runner, I believed I’d never get enough protein or iron. High school Lindsey was simply not educated. Ultimately, despite new exposure to these diets in my freshman year of college, I wasn’t any more compelled to give up animal products.
On the Road
But then things changed. In the summer before my sophomore year of college I took a month-long road trip around the United States hiking, camping, running, and adventuring around the nation’s protected outdoor spaces. Since my travel companions and I were living out of a car, our fridge was a cooler whose temperatures varied greatly depending on how frequently we could get ice. Out of fear of getting sick from poorly kept meat, we just didn’t buy meat for our meals for the month. During the trip I had meat on only a few occasions at restaurants. And as we explored many epic natural spaces across the country, I began to see how many of them were in great danger from climate change. I wanted to do something because I couldn’t imagine my life without places like those to explore. Realizing I had eaten mostly vegetarian for the month, I decided I would become a vegetarian. Certainly, the mountains and trees were more important to me than a ribeye.
Becoming a Vegetarian
I returned home after the trip and did just that, becoming a vegetarian with Emma (my sister), who agreed to try it with me. Over the summer, we spent time trying new recipes and adjusting to a meatless diet. In the fall, I went back to school and took advantage of the many vegetarian options in the dining hall. But after less than half a year I began to think about my consumption of dairy and eggs—if I was doing this (being vegetarian) to decrease my environmental impact then eliminating other animal products on top of meat would certainly help, right?
I consulted a vegan friend who encouraged me to try it out and offered some of her favorite recipes. But I knew that giving up cheese, which was a topping on almost all of my meals, would be a real challenge. Still, I decided to give it a try, for I could always go back to being vegetarian. And again, Emma agreed to do it with me—neither one of us was alone in our journey. When I returned home for winter break, I enjoyed one last rice and bean burrito full of sour cream and cheese. Then I began my journey as a vegan. The very first thing I made was this vegan quiche (thanks tofu) for Christmas! It’s already been 2.5 years since I took that step!
Stay tuned to hear more about all things plant-based! Next week we will explore how animal agriculture contributes to the climate crisis…
Thanks for reading!