Written by: Sarah Lawrence
Move over, “Meatless Mondays!” There’s a buzz of new meatless manifestos going viral in the media, thanks to Wildaid.org, the Chinese Nutrition Society and the United Nations!
What Gives? Why Veg And Why Now?
Let’s start by jumping in the time machine and heading back to 2010. The United Nations released a report that stated that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. From this report and work done by another UN panel, the concept of Meatless Mondays was born – 1 meatless day per week to help the world.
|Did you know that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined (according to the United Nations)?|
Now, jump ahead now to this past spring: WildAid partnered with James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger on a series of ads aimed at getting out the message that reducing global meat consumption is necessary if we’re going to have a positive impact on the environment and global warming.
What’s interesting is that the ads are targeted at China. Stick with me while we take a look at why China? And what are the main ideas behind “Less Meat, Less Heat” (trust me… there are nuggets of wisdom we can apply to our daily grind!).
Go Big Or Go Home
The Chinese Nutrition Society is aiming big! Their initiative for China has a target reduction of meat consumption by 50%. If China succeeds in cutting meat consumption in half it would not only mean a huge impact on public health, but also a giant step towards reducing carbon emissions and reaching the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and at COP21.
Now, unless you’ve got your finger on the pulse of environmental accords, the Paris Agreement and COP21 are probably new names to you. The Cliff Notes version is that the major world players are working to set standards for emissions that will keep our air healthy, our water supply safe and our global temperature balanced for years to come.
Why Start With China?
China may be a world away for some of us, but what’s happening there should be a concern, as you’ll see…
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, China consumes 28% of all the world’s meat and about half of the world’s pork. Projections show that if things continue as is, China will add the equivalent of the total United States consumption to global demand for meat between 2010 and 2030. With no intervention, it’s expected that emissions from meat consumption in China will rise 51% by 2030 (which is NOT the right direction).
Bottom line: for the world to see an effective reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and for global temperatures to stabilize, China must be a part of the solution. The good news is that calculations show that if everyone in China adopts the recommended diet, greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption in the country would drop about 1.5% of overall global emissions.
A Veg World
What we know globally is that animal products and large scale agricultural enterprise is problematic; livestock raised for meat consumes a large portion of the world’s crops and a lot of freshwater. Agriculture and “particularly meat and dairy products” accounts for:
While you may not be game to go full on vegan, there are some easy ways to go meatless. As a vegan/vegetarian and plant based eater for 25+ years, here are my top tips to make planet friendly eating as easy as 1-2-3! Swap, Adopt and Explore – here’s how:
SWAP! There are so many excellent substitutes available now, that swapping animal products for alternatives is a breeze!
1. Grab a dairy alternative. The store bought versions are creamy and good! Almond, cashew, coconut, rice or hemp milk make a fine swap for the cow or goat variety.
2. Cheesey is easy. Choose a cultured nut cheese for a spreadable alternative to cream cheese and goat cheese. Other non dairy cheeses are available in shreds and blocks so you can slice or sprinkle at will.
3. New-found ground. Ground meat has met it’s match with commercial meatless crumbles. Some of them are really good! You can go more natural by swapping lentils or minced portobello mushrooms or chopped walnuts for the ground stuff.
Coach Sarah’s Super-Secret-Kid-Approved Taco Meat Sub
Instructions: Pulse everything in your food processor until mixture resembles ground meat.
ADOPT! Adopt a new attitude about veggies and animal products.
1. Meatless Mondays (or Tuesdays or Wednesdays). Try going veg for one day a week. Adopting this habit can help your health and the environment!
2. And the Lead Role goes to… veggies! Make veggies the star in your main dish. Try moving meat and dairy into the condiment category. Use a little crumbled bacon for flavor, grilled chicken cubes as croutons and maybe a few slices of steak as a salad topper. You get the benefit of the nutrient rich veg without giving up the familiar flavors that you love.
3. Go fresh and local. Focus on fresh, local produce to fill your fridge and feed yourself beautifully. Not only will you be helping by buying local, but your body benefits from a variety of fresh, seasonal food.
EXPLORE! The world of plant based options is huge, tasty and good for you. Explore it and enjoy it.
1. Try ethnic cooking. Flavorful veggies go down much easier than bland ones. Look for recipes that employ spices and herbs. You may find some new favorites.
2. Get out. Go out and try something new. Happycow is a great resource for finding veg friendly eateries near you.
3. From soups and smoothies to seitan, tempeh and tofu, plant based eating presents options. Nudge the limits of your comfort zone a little and try something new. Actually, I dare you to ask your friends or post on your Facebook feed, “I’m trying some vegetarian stuff and I want it to taste good and be good for me. What’s your favorite vegetarian or vegan meal?”
Are you convinced? Do you think that we need a meatless initiative to get the world back on track, reduce the impact of global warming and ensure clean water and clean air for generations to come? Do you already do Meatless Mondays? If so, what are some of your favorite vegan recipes? If not, what’s holding you back?