It was just another tailgate in beautiful, sunny Southern California. I walked along USC's Greek Row covered in gold body glitter, USC gear, and dewy makeup that slowly slipped off with each sweaty dance outbreak. I was having the time of my life, as usual, and settled under some shade with a nice, warm, cliche Natty Light. Life seemed almost perfect, until somehow I found myself talking about Veganism with a steak-obsessed, intoxicated frat star. All jokes aside, it is understandable that a life without meat, dairy, or eggs is absolutely perplexing to someone who grew up in a world that normalizes animal products. Rather than throwing out my standard arguments such as finding it all unappetizing, not wanting to support the meat or dairy industries, or simply that it's my choice, I decided to try something different. I told him how well it influenced all of my other life decisions. If it wasn't for Travis Scott's "SICKO MODE", I probably would have been able to tell him all of the amazing things I'm telling you now.

With each decision I've made in my day-to-day life, I've found that honoring a vegan diet, or at least attempting to move into that direction, has changed how I make various other decisions. It began with quick convenience meals. Being that I am a waitress at a craft beer and gourmet burger restaurant, my standard "salad burrito" as some of my coworkers call it, can get redundant and bland. Though I would love to drive through an animal-friendly joint and leave with a stuffed pepper after a 15 minute interaction, that dream is unfortunately not a reality. While French fries, McDonald's apple pie, and modified burritos from Taco Bell are all vegan options (you're welcome), I came to the realization that vegan junk food and regular junk food are not one in the same. A cheeseburger isn't the healthiest option, but at least the meat has protein—our apple pie falls short here. I found myself finding easy meals to make at home, and even meal prepping for the first time. This taught me to really make my calories count in a day—it's not just about helping the economy, the environment, and the animals, it's also about honoring the basis of the diet: feeding yourself for fuel.

Beyond saving money and eating healthier, I also found my vegan diet affecting my purchases in a wide range of categories. While refusing to consume animal products is a huge step into a cruelty-free lifestyle, it most certainly does not end there. From dish soap to baby wipes, many products often use animal products in them and/or test on animals. As I reached for another packet of tide pods, I found myself wondering if there were any alternatives. I found myself divulging into a rabbit hole of vegan, cruelty-free, waste free tips, tricks, and life hacks to make my home not only cruelty-free, but eco-friendly. This allowed me to realize that while I am able to help animals when it comes to food, it is important to realize that protecting the planet is incredibly important, and it begins with tasks as simple as unplugging unused devices, switching to Trader Joe's vegan detergent ($9.99), and finding household items such as toothbrushes that are made out of bamboo instead of plastic. All in all, my vegan diet taught me that though we cannot dismantle the meat and dairy industries AND save the planet all at once, every little bit of effort counts—and there are PLENTY of ways to help out a little bit.