A year ago I was experiencing a lot of anxiety regarding climate change and I felt powerless in the fight against rising temperatures. As a full-time working mom of two young kids, veganism appeared to be the most efficient way to have a powerful impact as a single human being. According to a recent Oxford study, a vegan diet is the “single biggest measure” that can be taken to reduce environmental pollution.
However, giving up meat, fish, cheese, milk, butter, and eggs seemed unimaginable. I really enjoyed eating eggs for breakfast, chicken on my salad for lunch, and steak for dinner. And my family wasn’t willing to give up bacon for breakfast or substitute dairy-free cheese on their pizza. Therefore, the idea of having to create separate dinners felt like a deal-breaker. But, I knew I needed to set the model behavior in my family so I mustered up a plan using my Core Value of Bravery.
Every September, my team at work would host a month-long health challenge. Starting over the summer, I started dropping hints to my family that I was considering taking on veganism as my September challenge. Once late August hit, I recruited my die-hard vegan friend to co-lead a larger group of people to make a commitment to eating plant-based and creating zero-waste for the month. I knew that if I set the bar even higher than just going plant-based (i.e. also zero-waste) then I would ideally land in the zone of where I wanted to be - i.e. vegan. We recruited 35 people to take the challenge with us and for the month of September we reported out on a daily basis.
At first, making the transition to a plant-based diet was overwhelming - checking every ingredients label, knowing which restaurants had good vegan options, understanding which supplements my body would need after removing animal-based products from my diet, and the list goes on. Had I not had 35 people to be accountable to, I’m not sure I would have persevered through this stage of change. I remember going on a work trip during this time, and eating out at a restaurant with a client. There was nothing (absolutely nothing) on the menu that was plant-based. I didn’t want to make a fuss so I ordered fish. I felt so much guilt around this one piece of fish and shared with the group that I felt like I had let them down. But one of my co-challengers looked up the sustainability practices of the restaurant and shared with me that the fish was sustainably sourced. She didn’t want me to be discouraged and that camaraderie took me through to the next leg of my vegan journey. Connection, being one of my top Core Values, made this accountability group crucial to my success.
After learning for the month of September that I was capable and competent to make a lifestyle change like this, I started to believe that I could do it for a little bit longer. To my husband’s chagrin, I added another month to the challenge and kept going with it. 13 months later, I’m still vegan. My family has also significantly reduced the amount of meat they eat, and my husband is a huge reason for the success. He’s learned to cook delicious vegan meals and even edited recipes for a vegan meal service. Each dinner we go around the table and say what we are thankful for on our plate. My Core Value of Gratitude reminds me how each vegetable on my plate was once grown by the sun and water of the earth bringing me back to my original reason for being vegan.
The icing on the cake - according to the Vegan calculator, in the past 13 months that I’ve been vegan I have saved over 430,000 gallons of water, 15,800 lbs of grain, and 7,900 lbs of CO2 by eating a plant-based diet. If that’s not meaningful change, I don’t know what is.