During my junior year of high school, I took an environmental studies class that forever changed my life.

I've heard about recycling and not littering to help the environment from a young age, but it was in that class that I learned just how bad consuming meat can be for the environment. I will never forget watching a movie about the cruelty of the meat industry and how much CO2 emissions they release into the environment. Studies have shown that the meat industry puts out more emissions than cars and trucks. By the end of this movie, I was in tears. I couldn't believe that I went 17 years of my life consuming meat products without ever knowing the industry I supported by doing so.

I vowed to change my lifestyle for the better.

At first, I thought converting to vegetarianism would be a huge challenge. Coming from a household in the midwest, meat had always been a huge staple in my diet. So, when I went "cold turkey" and cut all meat products out of my diet, I thought I would be miserable. However, after a week of cutting animal products out of my diet, I was so impressed by how simple it was and how much better I felt. My skin was clearer, I had more energy, and my stomach aches at night disappeared. I no longer relied on my afternoon coffee to get through the rest of the day. After cutting meat out of my diet and adding more vegetables and whole, unprocessed foods, I can honestly say I not only felt better about helping the environment, but I felt better and healthier.

There are so many great meat replacement options that taste good and provide just as much protein as meat.

Black bean burgers and vegetarian sausages became my go tos. I also turned to protein-packed almonds, peanuts, and hummus for snacks. Eating out also was not as big of a challenge as I thought it would be. Most restaurants have vegetarian options on the menu, but the ones that don't are almost always accommodating, such as not adding meat to things like salads and pasta.

While I understand that not everyone is willing to completely give up meat (and I have to admit, sometimes Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets are tempting), if people had meatless days once or twice a week, it could make a huge impact on the environment.