Matt Niswonger

Eating less meat and loving the outdoors


Matt Niswonger on the Flume Trail in Tahoe.

Like a lot of kids I was introduced to the book Charlotte’s Web while sitting cross-legged on the carpet and listening to my teacher’s soothing voice. The book held my attention. Was Wilbur the smart pig going to get sold and eaten?

Even though I really connected to the story, I made the decision that eating pork was OK because pigs don’t talk to geese in real life and after all, Charlotte’s Web is just a silly farmyard story.

Decades later I was waiting in line at the DMV and I clicked on a video that showed up in my Facebook feed. What I saw was a pig facility where thousands of pigs were laying in steel pens and nursing piglets as far as the eye could see. Normally I would have dismissed the video as vegetarian propaganda but this time I felt different.

At the time I was taking some intensive training courses that were about business and entrepreneurship and also about just being a happier person in general. My thoughts about eating meat shifted all of a sudden after seeing the pig factory and right there, in line at the DMV, I decided to stop eating pork. It just seemed like a compassionate act and I knew it would not be hard to give up bacon, hotdogs and pork chops.

Even though my kids thought I was a bit odd they were generally supportive and I really felt empowered by the whole process. I’ve been pork free (with a couple of slips) for almost a year now. In fact, I have been able to pretty much phase out chicken and beef from my diet as well.

Cutting out almost all meat from my diet has been empowering and fun and simple. I saw something that I knew in my heart was wrong, and I acted out of compassion in response. And it was easy.

A few months later I had an idea. What if one million people gave up eating pork between now and the end of 2016? What if one million American consumers boycotted pork in a short period of time and it sent a message that animal cruelty matters? Even more, what if the whole movement was easy and fun and nobody got hurt feelings and the entire pork industry reformed itself and switched to free range organic farming methods?

If you are reading this I challenge you to play a game: convince ten people you know to stop eating pork for one year.  We can also start Facebook pages asking people to stop eating pork and wear buttons that say “Some Pig.” How about the hashtag #SomePig with Instagram shots of these intelligent, gentle animals? Let’s start a movement right now and live every day as if making a difference is fun and easy and empowering.

Speaking of making a difference, our Environmental Partnership Campaign (EPiC) award winner for this issue is Save Our Shores. Longtime ASJ editor Leonie Sherman takes a look at this powerhouse organization that started out as a beach cleanup group and has gone on to make huge strides in spreading awareness about preserving shoreline ecosystems.

Also in this issue we take a look at the ways mountain biking benefits communities. Michele Lamelin presents a list of major accomplishments towards trail building and community involvement that highlights how mountain biking is making a difference throughout California.

We explore circumnavigating Lake Tahoe via SUP, hiking a well loved Sierra route, climbing Lone Pine Peak, and descending Tenaya Canyon. Plus, kayaking editor Haven Livingston introduces us to California Women’s Watersport Collective, a group that supports women who challenge themselves in the water.

We hope you enjoy ASJ’s annual “green” issue. As always, we share about the human powered activities we love and renew our commitment to giving back to the earth. For us, being green is a natural act of compassion that flows from playing in California’s adventurous terrain. Hopefully you feel the same way and understand that eating less meat is one of the most important ways to save resources and help suffering animals at the same time. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Feel free to drop me a line at

Thanks for reading!

  Matt Niswonger