Alyssa Thompson, a 17-year-old senior at Monmouth Academy, began eating a vegetarian diet when she was a freshman in high school.

It was her third attempt – her first was in third grade, and her second in seventh grade, when she lost too much weight and had to stop. Freshman year, she decided to do it as her New Year’s resolution, and it stuck.

Initially, she simply wanted to give up meat. But as she began researching and watching documentaries like ‘Vegucated,’ she learned about “factory farming and the impacts that it has. So I thought vegetarian is a really good thing to be.”

Thompson’s first year as a vegetarian was hard because she wasn’t sure what to eat. She consumed too much junk food and gained weight, “and was really not any more healthy and probably not eco-friendly. But now I’ve learned what my options are and can actually cook.”

In the last year, primarily because of her concerns about climate change, she has considered becoming vegan, but her parents balked at the idea so she has decided to wait. But her concern for the planet has convinced her a vegan diet is in her future. “It’s actually incredible how many animals have not been slaughtered because the demand for meat is going down,” she said.

Thompson is already getting practice being vegan. Usually her mother will cook her a vegetarian meal to go along with whatever the rest of the family is having, but sometimes Thompson takes over and makes a big pot of vegan soup or stew – and her parents join in, shrinking the family’s carbon footprint even more.

“Through my journey as a vegetarian, it’s definitely opened up my parents more,” she said. “My mom eats significantly less meat than she used to.”