Have you ever felt guilty eating a hamburger or a bacon, egg, and cheese while out with your vegetarian friends? Have you ever thought about going vegetarian but can’t start, simply because you don’t think you’ll be able to stick with it? Brian Kateman may have a more sustainable solution for those of us struggling with the all-or-nothing anxiety of vegetarianism and veganism. He recently co-founded (with Macaulay 2013 graduate Tyler Alterman) the Reducetarian movement, a community and identity for individuals committed to reducing their meat consumption.
Kateman, who graduated in 2011 from Macaulay at the College of Staten Island, thought he was headed straight for a PhD in evolutionary biology. He attributes this switch from his original, freshman-year plan—studying psychology and mental health—to an introductory biology class that completely “rocked [his] world.” Kateman was on the fast track to studying biology, and says today that his “deepest passion is understanding and improving the state of our planet.” Upon graduating, he was offered a position at the Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES) at Columbia University, where he manages unique education programs geared toward cultivating environmental leadership. Although it was a “very scary decision” to postpone his PhD plans, Brian says it has paid off and he’s “delighted with how [his] career has unfolded”—a comforting anecdote for all those graduating Macaulay seniors counting down the days to June commencement.
As it turns out, Kateman’s career is only just beginning to unfold. He brings his interests in psychology, communications, and marketing, and his passion for the environment and animals, together in his newest project: Reducetarian. Says Kateman, “Reducetarians may still enjoy the taste of meat or are unable to make a drastic lifestyle change but are committed to reducing their meat consumption nonetheless. The Reducetarian platform provides individuals with the tools and knowledge to reduce their meat consumption.” The idea is not to go from 100mph to 0mph in a second, but to consistently and consciously reduce as much as we can in respect to our own diet and needs. As linguist, cognitive scientist, and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker puts it, “Reducetarianism: 2 → 1 burgers saves as many cows as 1 → 0.”
Kateman also says that vegetarians and vegans are fantastic Reducetarians, already reducing their meat consumption to the best of their abilities. Reducetarian confronts the health, environmental, and animal rights issues that are all associated with eating meat and provides a community for like-minded individuals who are also simply trying to consume less meat.
“My favorite part about the Reducetarian movement is hearing from individuals who have since become inspired to eat less meat with respect to their own diet,” Kateman says. “I am also very grateful to have connected with some of the pioneers in this industry.” For anyone interested in starting their own movement or venture, Kateman suggests having a role model or mentor, someone you can look up to for inspiration. One of his role models is Peter Singer, moral philosopher, author of Animal Liberation and co-author of The Ethics of What We Eat, and supporter of Reducetarian. “His ideas radically transformed how we view animals, and personally inspired me to work toward lessening the suffering of animals.”
The best part of the Reducetarian movement? It started right here: “Macaulay has been instrumental in my successes thus far—the mentorship, in particular, from the professors and administration was invaluable,” Kateman says. “I am particularly grateful for Dean Ann Kirschner, Autumn Payne, and Lisa French.” One of Kateman’s greatest lessons from starting Reducetarian is that you can’t do it alone. “Seek advice; ask for support from your friends and colleagues. You will likely enjoy the process more, and grow the enterprise quicker and better. People want to make a difference, so provide them with the platform to join you.”
Another piece of advice: “Don’t be afraid to take a risk, and be prepared to pour your heart and mind into your initiative if you want it to be a success. It will be worth it. Perhaps, most critically, don’t reinvent the wheel—find a tiny space that is completely novel, and people will gravitate toward that novelty.”
So, are you a Reducetarian? Do you want to reduce your own consumption of meat and celebrate this identity with a like-minded community? To learn more about Reducetarian check out Brian’s TEDxCUNY talk, support Reducetarian by taking the #LessMeat Pledge on their website, and check out their Facebook and Twitter.