Ecocentricity Blog: Decisions, Decisions

By: John A. Lanier
Sep 4, 2019 10:00 AM ET

Everyone is different, so what is doable for me may not be as doable for others, and vice versa. I believe environmental activism should be about encouragement, not admonishment.


So often in life, significant decisions are tied to particular moments. I remember precisely when I asked my wife’s parents if I could marry her. I remember walking down the lawn at the University of Virginia in the 11th grade, and I knew that was where I wanted to go to college. I remember entering my mentor’s office at my old law firm to tell him I would be leaving the firm to take my dream job with this foundation. I imagine that I’ll remember those moments for the rest of my life.

For some reason though, my most recent significant life decision doesn’t have any particular moment tied to it. I didn’t look myself in the mirror and make some new resolution. It’s strange to me, but it kind of just happened. By “it,” I mean my decision to become a vegetarian.

Let me say this at the outset – I’m not here to shame meat-eaters or evangelize for vegetarianism. I just want to write about my experience, and if you find it interesting, that’s cool. If not, that’s cool too.

Back in May or June, I just stopped eating meat. It wasn’t some intentional thing, and I honestly can’t say with any accuracy when I last ate an animal. I think we hadn’t prepared any at home and I hadn’t ordered it at a restaurant for a week or so. When I realized that, I just thought, “This isn’t that hard.” So I kept not eating it. Eventually, I had been a vegetarian in practice long enough to decide to be one in principle as well.

My reason is simple – a vegetarian diet lowers my carbon footprint, and I want to lower my carbon footprint because I’m concerned about climate change. That’s it.

I often advocate in this blog for people to find the things in their lives where they can make a positive environmental impact, and then to do them. Everyone is different though, so what is doable for me may not be as doable for others, and vice versa. Again, I believe environmental activism should be about encouragement, not admonishment.

When I realized that being a vegetarian wasn’t hard for me, I became one. And even though I know that a vegan diet would reduce my carbon footprint even more, I’m not ready for that. I celebrate those who are vegan, just as I celebrate those who avoid red meat because of its environmental footprint, but still eat other meat.

Also, I’m not saying that I’ll never eat meat again. If I’m a guest in another person’s home and they serve me chicken stir fry, I’m likely going to eat it out of politeness. Moreover, I may eat someone else’s leftover meat rather than have it become waste, which would have its own negative carbon footprint.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying all of the non-meat that I’m eating, and I honestly feel better day-to-day than I used to. I get all the protein I need from various nuts, vegetables, and eggs. I don’t really miss anything, with the only exception MAYBE being a spicy chicken sandwich. And when I eat out, I find that nearly every restaurant has multiple options that make me quite happy.

It’s my small offering for the benefit of humanity, and I will continue to look for other ways to improve. Thank you for anything that you are doing in your own life! I celebrate every bit of it.

Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858