Continuing on with our Sustainability for Ordinary People series, and in the hope that we make more sustainable choices that respect the limitations of our natural environment, this month we are writing about Meatless Mondays. World Meat-Free Day just happened on the 13th of June so today is a great time to remind ourselves about why people are flying the meatless flag, even if it’s just for one day a week.
One of the best (and easiest) ways of reducing our individual impact on the natural environment is to eat less animal protein (meat, fish, chicken, pork). What goes into producing that delectable steak you may be consuming twice a week (or more), is an incredibly high-energy, land and water intensive system of cultivation that leaves our land, rivers, oceans and air depleted significantly and therefore contributing to climate change. Eating less meat can help you live longer, be healthier, spend less, cook delicious meals (with a huge range of easy vegetarian recipes available) and help you to branch out in the kitchen, experimenting more than you normally would. However, in this case, I will be talking about one of the main reasons why Meatless Mondays are so important… And that is to reduce your environmental footprint (see definition below).
So is animal farming really bad for the environment? And just how resource intensive is the production of animal protein?
Well, modern industrial-scale livestock production used to rear chicken, beef and pigs on land in addition to aqua-farming for fish in our waters is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. It is also one of the largest consumers of water and causes of soil degradation. It is also a major cause of deforestation as land is constantly cleared to rear animals and livestock, the production of which presents the greatest threat to species and ecosystems around the world. In a study published last December it was found that beef was responsible for 65 per cent of tropical deforestation between 2001 and 2009.(1)
It takes a whopping 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, depending on the natural environment of the area in which beef is reared. Compared with only 245 gallons needed for a pound of tofu. Similarly, commercial and unsustainable fishing methods such as bottom trawling and long-lining often clear the ocean floor of a large amount of life by killing thousands of dolphins, turtles, sharks, and other “bycatch” animals while destroying coral reefs.
The amount of stress meat production puts on the environment is hardly precise. It is estimated that the combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat was, approximately, a staggering 51% of the global total – more than all transport put together (2). Imagine the sheer quantity of the gases released from their digestion and manure, the energy and emissions produced from growing their feed, the fuel required in getting meat to the markets and the amount of refrigeration needed in keeping them cool and frozen. Some may disagree with the figures based on accounting methods, but the main point is, disregarding small difference in numbers, livestock farming will still rank pretty high in being one of the greatest sources of climate changing emissions and one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation. Amidst all these numbers and figures, let us not forget that a billion people go hungry every day, while livestock consumes a majority of the worlds crops.
I am sure that we would all like a world where beef is raised in a way that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, using better and more humane production methods. Until then, apart from buying sustainably produced beef (which is not always easy to procure in Singapore) it is obvious to conclude that eating less animal meat is good, not just for one’s health, but it is much kinder to the planet as well. Meatless Mondays are about cutting out the meat – just for one day of the week, and showing that one can make changes on a small scale, within our homes, which can have big benefits without the need to make drastic lifestyle changes. Translating sustainability into making better choices for your home and family has never been easier.
There may be many compelling reasons not to be completely vegetarian, but choosing one day as a meat-free day is doable, easy, fun and gives your body a nice break from digesting all those heavy, animal-based proteins. Fortunately, receiving the benefits of a healthier diet does not have to take a huge time commitment either.
If you have been contemplating a plant based diet and are just not sure where to start, this is the perfect opportunity. Picking one day a week and making it work is less daunting than changing your entire diet and lifestyle overnight. A diet high in plant protein such as legumes and fruits and vegetables is not only healthier and protects against disease but it is cheaper live on and sustain. Choose local and responsibly farmed produce.
My personal favourites on Meatless Mondays are pumpkin pancakes for breakfast (no maple syrup required since pumpkin is oh-so-sweet), a kale salad with beetroot, onions and cucumber for lunch and lentils and rice for dinner. Easy peasy and even my kids love it. Be adventurous and stock your pantry with beans, lentils, chickpeas – the best staples to have. Experiment just a little more on Mondays, be Italian, be Indian, be South American, be meat free and be inspired. We have just given you so many reasons to start with the first day of the week with some sustainable, healthy fun.
Try some of our vegetarian recipes for some great Meatless Monday options:
- Taiwanese Style Dumplings – try the vegetarian option
- Buckwheat (Soba) Noodle Salad with Tahini and Lime Dressing
- Easy Roasted Red Pepper Pesto
- Fermented Macadamia Nut Cheese
- Miso Pumpking Feta and Pine Nut Tart
- Homemade Romesco Sauce and Crudites
- Crispy Roasted Veggie Chips
- Cabbage Salad with Lime Honey Dressing
If you would prefer to dine out, check out the following places (our review on Joie will be posted this week sometime) – subscribe below or Like us on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss it):
The concept of a meatless day was originally introduced by President Woodrow Wilson during the first World War as families were urged to reduce key staples such as meat. Funnily, it was started by calling for every Tuesday to be meatless. It was reintroduced in 2003 by Sid Lerner in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and follows the the nutrition guidelines developed by the USDA. Meatless Monday was thus founded to make healthier decisions at the start of the week. Now an international non-profit campaign, this movement has gained popularity worldwide. In 2009 Paul McCartney introduced the U.K. to Meat-Free Mondays. Believe it or not, many cities like Ghent (Belgium), San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Paolo to name a few, have launched this movement and declared Mondays as official vegetarian days.
Environmental Footprint: The effect that a person, company, activity, etc. has on the environment, for example the amount of natural resources that they use and the amount of harmful gases that they produce (Source: Cambridge English Dictionary). In essence, your environmental or ‘ecological’ footprint is a measure of the demand you put on the earth’s resources or, how fast you consume them. It is officially an accounting term measured recognised by Global Hectares (gha), and it aptly represents the way we as a population consume resources.
(1) Trading forests: land-use change and carbon emissions embodied in production and exports of forest-risk commodities
(2) 2009 Worldwatch Institute Report “Livestock Emissions: Still Grossly Underestimated?” www.worldwatch.org