You never know where a day-long experiment will lead. Go without meat for a day and it may inspire longer-lasting dietary changes.
Meat has a significant impact on our planet. The way in which most livestock animals in North America are raised and the tremendous resources they require to turn them into edible meat mean that putting a steak or a chicken breast on your dinner plate is far more costly from an environmental perspective than a mushroom burger or some chickpea curry.
Livestock production is responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; according to Friends of the Earth, this is more than the entire transportation industry combined. It is one of the key causes of deforestation and climate change. With the world’s population likely to hit 9 billion people by 2050, the increase in meat production is forecast to reach 200 million tonnes, an impossibly high demand for our already-stretched planet.
Our collective eating habits must change, but how and where does one start? Major dietary shifts are a daunting process for many people who have grown up shopping, cooking, and eating in a certain way. While some people can do it all at once – going full-blown vegetarian or vegan – it’s more likely you’ll want to ease into it.
Start by joining in World Meat Free Day, which is happening today.
The organizers of World Meat Free Day believe that participation is an excellent opportunity for education:
“We’re asking YOU to go meat-free for just one day on the 13th of June, so you can see not only the impact it can have on your health and the environment, but also how delicious and easy it can be, so that you consider going meat-free more often in the future.”
The World Meat Free Day website shows the equivalent resource savings that can be had by giving up meat for one day, i.e. For a family of four, it’s the carbon saving equivalent to leaving a light bulb on for 16 days; you will save 360 calories, equal to a medium portion of fries; and save the equivalent daily water that 1 person uses over a month. It goes on to compare what would be saved if a classroom of 30, a medium-sized business of 500, and a stadium of 50,000 were all to give up meat for a day.
There is a Sustainability Calculator where you can figure out your own household’s savings based on the number of people eating meat-free meals. You can sign a pledge to participate.
While we all know that a single meat-free day isn’t going to make a lot of difference over the grand scheme of things, there is value in participation. I liken it to Earth Hour, when the world is asked to turn out its lights for just one hour on March 31st, and think that fellow TreeHugger writer Lloyd Alter’s words are relevant in this context. (I substituted ‘World Meat Free Day’ for ‘Earth Hour’.)
“I am celebrating World Meat Free Day to stand up against negativity. To stand with millions around the world in a visible demonstration that we actually care about the planet, about climate change, about the future. Consider it a symbol of solidarity against those who mock environmentalism.”
The ultimate goal, of course, is that a single day will stretch to more days, weeks, perhaps years of meat-free eating, which is precisely what this planet needs so desperately from its inhabitants.
If you want to learn more, start educating yourself. One of my favorite (and most shocking) books on the subjects is “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. “Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It” by Anna Lappé provides valuable insights into the food industry. Watch the “Cowspiracy” documentary. Explore websites like Food Tank, Civil Eats, and Real Food Media. The more you learn, the more convinced you’ll be that going meat-free is the dietary way of the future.