2020 was… a year, right? A byproduct of our lives being thrown into total disarray is the collective realization that while we would like to be masters of our own destinies, there is a lot that is out of our hands. That recognition seems to be manifesting itself in 2021 new year’s resolutions that are a lot less rigid. Instead of saying “I want to lose 10 pounds,” I’ve been seeing people say things like “I want to make healthier choices,” or instead of saying “I want to get that promotion,” sentiment is shifting towards an emphasis on finding happiness in your current situation or finding more balance. We want to take control of the things that we can, while learning to let go of those we cannot.
One of the most important resolutions that we all can and should make is to make more eco-friendly choices. But where to start? Here on the Sustainability Blog, we try to offer easy, accessible tips to make more eco-friendly choices; today we are going to focus on the benefits to the planet of eating less meat.
Food accounts for approximately 10-30% of a household’s carbon footprint. Food emissions are created primarily by production and transportation, which is helpful to understand when thinking about why it is that meat has such a higher ecological impact than grains, fruits, and vegetables. First, there are inefficiencies in the transformation of plant energy into animal energy – in simple terms, a pound of hay does not turn into a pound of meat, so in order to produce one pound of meat, you have to produce many, many pounds of hay. In addition, livestock, particularly cattle, emit methane, which contributes to the Earth’s ability to trap heat in its atmosphere: global warming. Finally, transportation emissions increase when food is transported to farms and ranches, where it is then eaten by animals who have to be transported for processing and eventual consumption. And we are not even going to get into the ethics of factory farming!
However, if you were raised by carnivores (me! me!) or just really like meat, the idea of cutting down on meat can be intimidating. But what is good to know that you do not have to go full vegan to make an impact! Below are a few of our favorite resources and recipes for fast, family-friendly vegetarian meals that are easy to make and packed with flavor and protein.
First up, we'd like to put in an enthusiastic endorsement for Smitten Kitchen, a food blog created by Deb Perelman almost 15 years ago. In addition to blogging, Deb has written two cookbooks: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen Every Day. Deb has two young children, so she knows about the importance of getting meals on the table fast. There are plenty of non-vegetarian recipes up on her site and in her books, but some of our favorite vegetarian Smitten Kitchen recipes are:
Lentil Soup (to make it vegetarian, just omit the sausage)
And too many more to list – her blog has a Vegetarian section as well as a Weeknight Favorites section, so you can feel confident that what you make will be delicious and easy.
Another great resource for family friendly vegetarian options is The Modern Proper. While the Modern Proper’s recipes are not all vegetarian, they are tagged to reflect if they are Dairy-Free, Gluten Free, Low Carb, Vegan, Vegetarian, or Whole30 compliant, so no matter what restrictions you may be working with, their website is easily searchable. Some of our favorite Modern Proper recipes are:
The website is also organized into helpful categories including 30 minutes or fewer, Freezer Meals, Kid Friendly, One Pot, Pressure Cooker, Sheet Pan and Slow Cooker, so you can be certain to find a recipe that not only meets your dietary constraints, but also your time and equipment restraints.
We’ve also found few amazing resources through our Instagram community. In addition to hosting a parenting podcast and teaching holistic techniques for health and wellness, Laura Radical Roots is a sourdough aficionado. Her website has recipes for her classic sourdough bread, as well as great ideas for what else to do with the sourdough starter, including recipes for sourdough pancakes and sourdough pizza.
Another site we love is Real Simple Good. While the site's focus is on recipes that are Keto / Paleo / Whole30, it is site is chock full of delicious vegetarian recipes like this Carrot Ginger Soup, healthy mayo-free coleslaw, and crispy air-fryer cauliflower.
As a bonus a few more delicious vegetarian recipes are below:
Vegetarian Taco Bowls - even the tofu skeptic in our house loves this one!
Happy Cooking! If you have any questions, send us an email! If you cook anything, tag us and let us know. Happy new year everyone. Make sure to join the email list to stay in the know for other tips for eco friendly living.