Today may look and seem like a typical Friday in late April, but did you know that people all around the world will be celebrating Earth Day?
If you’ve never celebrated or heard of Earth Day, it has become an annual event, celebrated on April 22 every year. Groups worldwide will host events to demonstrate support for and provide education about ways to protect our environment. Since 1970 the movement has been motivating people to action.
So, how can you participate in Earth Day from your own home? Simple! Take a break from meat.
Here are a few impactful ways you can help the environment by reducing your meat consumption:
1. Reduce Your Carbon Footprint - The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly 15 percent of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change worldwide, far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.
2. Minimize Water Usage - The water needs of livestock are tremendous, far above those of vegetables or grains. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu typically requires 220 gallons of water per pound.
3. Help Reduce Fossil Fuel Dependence - On average, about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein. Moderating meat consumption is a great way to cut fossil fuel demand.
There is no doubt that animal agriculture is one of the most significant contributors to global, human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive factory farming also harms the environment by polluting the air, water and soil with manure and other contaminants.
As an added advantage, when you curb your intake of meat, you can reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer as well as limit obesity. It’s a fun and easy way to improve the nutritional quality of your diet!
And if you want to continue to help the planet, your health and spare animals from factory farming, you can try Meatless Mondays every week. Meatless Monday is a weekly holiday from meat and a program that promotes the opportunity to get the week off to a healthier start.
The concept of Meatless Monday dates back to WWI, when it was implemented as a way to conserve resources for troops fighting abroad. In 2003, when the U.S. began fighting a war of a different kind—a war on chronic, preventable disease such as heart disease—it was a team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that understood the dire need to reintroduce Meatless Monday.
As the District Food Service Coordinator of Chittenden East Supervisory Union, I’m proud to say that our schools are doing their part by participating in Meatless Mondays, as well as serving a variety of meatless meals throughout the week. Our students love giving back by being more mindful of what they put on their plate, whether it’s a bean and rice burrito or a protein-packed three-bean chili.
As you look for ways to help our planet today, think about replacing your hamburger with a tasty veggie burger, or trying all new recipes that push vegetables to the center of the plate. Our world will thank you.
David Horner is the District Food Service Coordinator of Chittenden East Supervisory Union and a Middlesex resident.