The Vegetarian Ripple Effect

January 23, 2009
When I stopped eating meat 12 years ago, so did my family. They didn’t actually become vegetarians – my brother and sister were quite vocal about their carnivorous preferences* – but, six nights out of seven, my mother made red beans and rice, or tofu marbella, or cheesy potato soup.

When I moved into my first real apartment, my omnivorous roommates did the same thing. 12 apartments, 6 cities, 3 countries, and 24 roommates later, I can safely say that this phenomenon is universal. Vegetarian moves in, everyone else drastically reduces meat consumption.

In fact, the vegetarian doesn’t even have to move in for this to work. Your omnivorous friend will totally order vegetable dumplings for lunch, just so you can try them. Your boyfriend’s mother, whom you have never met before, will make you miso soup.

This is amazing.

First, it’s incredible how one vegetarian can change the way dozens or hundreds of people eat. Going vegetarian is the carbon equivalent of switching from a Toyota Camry to a Prius, but the multiplier effect from friends, family, and roommates is far bigger.

Secondly, I am always amazed at how generous people are when it comes to the care and feeding of vegetarians. There are an unbelievable number of people who will put aside their preferences so that the vegetarian in their life can eat something tasty.

So, thanks everyone. Thanks for making black bean soup and ordering the pad thai with tofu and letting me try it. It means a lot.

* They’re very supportive now. My sister just spent the weekend ordering vegetarian dishes for the express purpose of letting me eat off her plate in restaurants. She was also a vegetarian for a couple of years in college.