This blog was originally based on a course ran by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin who also wrote a textbook for the module Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. Now working as an independent consultant, Nick continues to work in the area of environmental sustainability and looking at ways of making a difference without recriminations or guilt. Saving the planet is all about living sustainably.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Meatless Mondays: The Difference a Day Can Make

As increasing attention is given to climate change each year, researchers across various disciplines are coming to a common conclusion: our individual lifestyle choices have a direct - and quite profound - impact on the environment. Specifically, climate change researchers are emphasizing the extent to which the food we eat contributes to our individual carbon footprints.

According to the United Nations, the meat industry alone produces about 1/5 of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions across the planet (1). This stifling number is more than the CO2 emissions from transportation – that is: cars, busses, trains, and planes – combined.  As a response to these daunting statistics, Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has advised that people begin to take action by limiting their consumption of meat as a step towards reducing emissions and protecting the planet from the imminent global warming (2).

But is this feasible? Can we really expect people – especially in meat-loving countries like the US and across the EU – to reduce their meat consumption? The answer is yes, and it is a phenomenon that has already infiltrated societies across the globe. The way in which thousands of people are consciously reducing their carbon footprint is by going vegetarian – but for just one day each week. This idea of a “meatless Monday”, as it is commonly referred to in the US, is part of a public awareness campaign in which individuals pledge to go one day a week without consuming meat. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who helped promote the meatless Monday initiative in L.A., explains that by going meatless one day each week, “you can reduce your carbon footprint by over eight pounds per day…save half a gallon of gasoline per day; reduce your saturated fat intake by 15 percent (per meatless meal); and reduce your risk of heart disease by 19 percent,” (3).  So not only does Meatless Monday help the environment, but it is also presents numerous health benefits.  

While the concept of Meatless Mondays began in the US, the idea of going meatless one day a week is occurring in various countries. Meat-free days have taken off in Ghent, Belgium, where the entire city now goes vegetarian each Thursday. Similarly, in the UK, Brazil, and Australia meatless days are gaining increasing popularity.

Meatless Monday’s are a simple step towards living a more sustainable lifestyle. So why not give it a try? Not only is eating vegetarian better for your health and the health of the environment, it is also a fun way to step out of your comfort zone. Whether it means trying a new recipe or ordering something you never have when out at a restaurant, going veg can be fun and exciting – plus, it’s only one day of the week!

Emily Collette

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