Quantcast
Food

Why Thanksgiving Is the Perfect Time to Give Up Meat

By Peter Kalmus

Of all our holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. It's a time out from the frenetic pace of life, a time for families to slow down and gather in the kitchen—to just be. It doesn't lend itself to the garish onslaught of commercialization. (You can sense the capitalist frustration and over-compensation in that oddest of add-ons, Black Friday). And for me, Thanksgiving was the perfect time to finally give up meat.

My journey to vegetarianism has been one of gradual awareness. In college, while living off campus, I discovered the wonders of cooking Indian food. Because the one cookbook I owned was from the Vaishnava tradition, my Indian cookery was strictly vegetarian. At a formative period of my life, I fell in love with the flavors of India. Those dishes never wanted for meat.


A few years after college, my wife, Sharon, and I began practicing vipassana meditation. On our first 10-day silent retreat—hard, mind-blowing work—we took comfort from the simple and delicious vegetarian meals provided by the meditation center. The code of conduct in the vipassana tradition is geared toward not harming other beings. This means no meat. Over the years, Sharon experimented with vegetarianism a few times, but it's hard to be vegetarian when married to a meat eater.

At some subconscious level, I realized my actions weren't consistent with my principles. But I grew up a meat eater in a meat-loving society. It's not easy to step out of lifelong norms, but it's very easy to rationalize. For nearly a decade I told myself, "I'll become vegetarian someday."

That's where Thanksgiving comes in.

The day after Thanksgiving in 2011, I was in line for lunch at my favorite Mexican food truck at Caltech. While hungry, I also felt heavy from all the turkey the night before. So instead of my usual carnitas burrito, I ordered the veggie. It was superb. As I ate, I had a thought: Why "someday"? Why not today?

And so I went for it: I decided to try vegetarianism for a month, until Christmas Eve. Not one totake a hard line, I ate meat a couple of times during the trial period. Afterward, I'd feel heavy and slow. I began to experience that a vegetarian diet gave me more energy. I also experienced that food in general tastes better. So after Christmas I just kept going.

I wondered which I'd miss more, bacon or sushi? It turns out I miss neither.

Vegetarianism, of course, is also easier on the planet—and climate. Roughly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from animal farming. In 2010, I made simple estimates of my own emissions, which yielded two huge surprises. First, the vast majority of my emissions came from flying. And my second largest source of emissions, by far, was from food. By becoming vegetarian, I cut my food emissions in half.

While moving the 7.5 billion people on this overcrowded, overheating planet toward plant-based diets is no silver bullet solution, it's certainly an important part of climate mitigation.

There's a spiritual aspect, as well. I've benefited greatly from a more conscious, intentional relationship with food. I've come to realize that gratitude is a necessary condition for happiness, and I know of no better way to cultivate gratitude than through food, whether it be plant or animal. Food is gift.

This, perhaps, is what makes Thanksgiving such a good time to experiment with a conscious shift in diet. Gratitude for food is baked into the holiday's very name. It's a time to reflect on our relationship to food—which is to say, our relationship to the biosphere—which we perhaps don't do often enough.

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

Peter Kalmus is a climate scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (speaking on his own behalf). He lives in suburban Los Angeles on one-tenth the fossil fuel of the average American. His book is Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. Twitter: @ClimateHuman.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Oceans

Acting Sub Lt.niwat Thumma / EyeEm / Getty Images

Plastic Straw Bans Have Unintended Consequences for People with Disabilities

The movement to ban plastic straws has gained major momentum this month, with Seattle's ban going into effect July 1 and companies like Starbucks, Hyatt and American Airlines all agreeing to phase the sucking devices out as well.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin arrive to attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. YURI KADOBNOV / AFP / Getty Images

'Traitor' Trump 'Colludes' With Putin Over Oil

By Andy Rowell

A "traitor." "Putin's Poodle." "Open Treason." These are just some of the harsh headlines to greet Trump after yesterday's summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The papers back home were indignant with rage. The New York Times called Trump Putin's "lackey." The paper said that this was the summit that Putin had dreamed of for eighteen years, and Trump had willingly obliged.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Hero Images / Getty Images

How to Have Your Healthiest Summer Cookout Ever

By Isabel Walston, EWG Intern

Summer is in full swing, which means many Americans are planning cookouts complete with friends, family and fresh food. Whether you're having a casual kickback or a big bash, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has you covered with tips and tricks to keep your summer cookout fun-filled and healthy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Doha, Qatar. Pixabay

Will Climate Change Make the Next World Cup Too Hot to Handle?

By Aimee Sison

After four weeks of fanfare, the 2018 World Cup has come to a close. France's victory in Sunday's final marked the end of a summer filled with thrilling victories, surprise defeats, national pride (and disappointment), penalty kick-induced panic and many other emotions associated with soccer.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Fairfax County / CC BY-ND 2.0

Protect Yourself From Disease-Carrying Ticks, Mosquitoes With EWG's 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents

A number of factors should come into play when you're choosing a bug repellent: what part of the country you live in, where you plan to travel, whether you're pregnant and whether you are planning to use the product on children. EWG's 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents can help you find the right product for yourself and your family.

No repellent works every place against every pest, so it is worth researching the diseases insects and ticks carry where you plan to spend time outside. The repellent you might choose for a backpacking trip in Colorado could be different from the one that might suffice for a picnic on an East Coast beach.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Bigbiggerboat / CC BY-SA 4.0

Sea Level Rise Could Sink Internet Infrastructure

Sea level rise may be coming for your Internet.

The first ever study to look at the impact of climate change on the Internet found that more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable in U.S. coastal regions will be underwater within 15 years and 1,000 traffic hubs will be surrounded, a University of Wisconsin (UW)—Madison press release reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Adidas shoes made with Parley ocean plastics. Adidas

Adidas Will Use Only Recycled Plastics by 2024

Adidas has long been committed to the fight against single-use plastics. Since 2015, it has partnered with Parley for the Oceans to respond to the plastic pollution crisis threatening marine life. In June, Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted announced the company had sold one million shoes made from plastic collected and recycled from the oceans.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!