Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meatless Mondays

Today is Thursday, November 21, 2013.

I was going to wait and post this on a Monday, but then I realized that if people really wanted to try this idea, they might want to take a few days to think it over.  

The Meatless Monday movement was begun in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  In 2009, city governments began to launch Meatless Monday campaigns in which they urged their residents to refrain from eating meat at least once a week.  Ghent, Belgium had the honor of being the first city to do so, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, is the most recent addition to this group of forward-thinking communities. The campaign is active in 29 countries. 

But why Monday?  Couldn't it be any day of the week?  It could, actually, but in Western culture, Monday holds special significance as the beginning of the work week, and it is associated with the idea of making a fresh start.  If you've ever started a new diet or exercise routine on a Monday, you know what I'm talking about.   As well, there's something to be said for using a particular day of the week, every week, to set a new habit into our consciousness. 

Skipping meat just one day a week is not only good for you, it's also good for the health of the nation in which you live, and good for the planet, as well.  Studies show that you can live longer and reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity by going meatless.  Besides, when you eat foods such as beans or peas instead of meat, you get more fiber, protein, folate (a water-soluble B vitamin), zinc, iron, and magnesium, and less fat.  

How does going meatless help the planet?  For one thing, you can reduce your carbon footprint.  Did you know that the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that the meat industry generates just about one-fifth of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions?  It's obvious by now that greenhouse gas emissions are accelerating climate change all over the planet.  Because the demand for meat continues to grow, at present, something has to be done, because it is critical that human beings seriously curb carbon emissions.  Sure, we can burn less fossil fuel, but efforts to do this depend a lot on governments and big business.  Right now, it's hard to force companies to burn less coal or produce more fuel-efficient cars.  Going meatless is a personal decision that can be made without running the idea through a contentious committee or submitting it to a vote.

Another way that going meatless helps the planet is that it reduces the amount of water usage for livestock.  Did you know that an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef?  By contrast, soy tofu produced in California requires only 220 gallons of water per pound to produce.  What a difference! 

Going meatless also helps us reduce our fossil fuel dependence.  An estimated 40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the United States.  Only 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy are needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein, such as beans or peas.

The link to the Meatless Monday campaign above leads to a great website where you can find a lot of information, such as meatless recipes, a list of restaurants that are participating in the Meatless Monday campaign, celebrities that are going meatless,  and plenty of articles on the benefits of going meatless.  In addition, if you want to start a campaign in your local area, there are downloadable toolkits and posters to help you.  On the site, you can sign up for an email newsletter or find a local contact in your country.  As well, there are links to the blogs of people who have pledged to go meatless on Mondays, and you can register your own blog or website as you take the Meatless Monday Pledge.  :-)

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