Happy New Year (almost)!
It’s that time of year again when we make our resolutions (or, as I prefer, goals and intentions). We’re all looking for a fresh start, looking forward to improving ourselves and our environment over the coming year.
My news (admittedly curated from a lot of outdoor-focused sources) was dominated by climate change in 2017, most notably a heart-breaking video of a starving polar bear. Over and over since this video went viral I’ve heard people ask “what can we do?!”. Fortunately, the photographer that filmed that captured that moment is affiliated with an organization that has a great, comprehensive list of ways to help our oceans.
I had already planned to make my main 2018 goal to reduce my waste as much as possible. I used the Sea Legacy list as well as many other sources to come up with some ideas of what I wanted to do in the new year. When I saw that others were looking for ways to reduce their ecological footprint as well I thought, why not share my plan in case others want to join?
I put together a calendar for 2018 with monthly goals – one thing to focus on each month that reduces waste and impact. To join the challenge, make sure to subscribe to this blog for updates, tips and monthly challenge announcements.
Then, leave me a comment below letting me know you’re joining in! Finally, I’ll be checking in and looking for accountability buddies over on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter).
With that intro out of the way, let’s get to the real reason you’re here: the January mini-challenge!
Many of us include health and weight loss goals for the new year. So let’s kick this challenge off with something that includes that type of goal, plus helps our environment…
Why should I do this?
I have no medical or nutrition training. So, of course, this is not medical advice. Additionally, I love meat. And it does provide nutritional value. But. It seems that more and MORE and MORE studies are pointing towards the benefits of eating a (more) plant-based diet, and the complications that come with eating a diet high in red and processed meats.
Additionally, the environmental impacts of eating animal products aren’t disputed; they are quantitative and measurable. And they are huge, especially for lamb, beef and cheese.
For much, much more information you can check out the official Meatless Mondays website here.
What’s the Impact?
I did a whole bunch of math here…I grabbed per capita meat consumption in the US in 2015, divided it into a daily average and then broke it out into chicken, beef, pork and turkey proportions. Then I grabbed per pound average prices for each of these and calculated the daily cost of these four meats. Finally, I grabbed average per-pound prices of oats, lentils and beans and assigned those to one serving size of each. The final math worked out to:
Average daily price of meat: $1.52
Average daily price of oats, lentils and beans: $0.48
That’s giving us a savings of $5.20 over the five Mondays of January! That extends to a hefty $54.08 over the course of a year. Not too shabby.
Using the same proportions above, I’ve calculated the average daily meat consumption to total about 623 calories, while one serving each of oats, lentils and beans in a day adds up to about 490 calories. That’s 133 calories per Monday, 665 calories in January and 6,916 calories in one year.
This is a whopper. Again, using the same methodology as above, I used average volumes of water to produce these foods. The difference, for one Monday of substituting beans, oats and lentils is a whopping 278 gallons of water. FOR ONE DAY. Wow. That’s 1,390 gallons of water in January, and 14,464 gallons of water if you removed meat from your diet once a week and substituted with plant-based proteins. Wow. Honestly, I didn’t expect a number this high when starting this challenge.
Carbon Dioxide Equivalents Saved
This time, I used all of the same proportions and measurements from above, and calculated the amount of carbon dioxide equivalents (in pounds) that are saved from replacing meat one Monday per month.
With meat: 3.682 CO2e
Without meat: 0.256 CO2e
That’s a savings of 3.426 CO2e per Monday, 17.13 CO2e in January and 178.15 CO2e per year. To put that into perspective, each mile driven in the US emits about 0.91 pounds of CO2. Additionally, many plant-based protein alternatives are shelf-stable dry goods, whereas meat is often purchased fresh and has a limited shelf life. It will take one trip for me to purchase my meatless protein for the month, but would take me up to four trips to the store to purchase meat. This obviously saves car emissions, packaging, electricity for refrigeration, etc., so this CO2e is, in reality, much higher.
***Another disclaimer here – as with all of these calculations, these are based on averages, prices, emissions, etc. gathered over various time periods. Additionally, measuring things like greenhouse gas emissions is complicated and detailed, beyond the scope of this challenge. Different gases impact the environment in different ways, I’m simply trying to show a high level of benefit of making the decision to eat meatless once a week.***
How Can I Do This?
The idea is simple – each Monday of the month, eat meatless meals, making sure to include high protein, plant-based foods. My Mondays will be lentil-heavy, since 1) they’re delicious, 2) they’re high in protein for a plant-based food and 3) they have a very low impact in production and preparation. To help you out, I’ve started a Pinterest board for this challenge, with lots of meatless recipes for this month’s mini-challenge. Check it out for some Monday meal-prep inspiration! If you’d like to contribute to the board, contact me and I’ll add you as a contributor! I’ll also be posting my meatless meals on social media and invite you to do the same (using the hashtag #januaryimpact).
Want to take this month’s challenge even further? Here are a few ideas…
- Go meatless more than once a week
- Make greener grocery choices
- Buy local or at a farmer’s market
- Minimize food waste from all sources
Have questions? Need help with accountability? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message on social media!
I’m so excited about this year of reducing my impact, and hope you’ll join me! I’ll be releasing February’s challenge towards the end of January. Make sure you subscribe to be notified when next month’s challenge is announced!