This is a guest post by Katie Cantrell of Green Monday
“When we think about threats to the environment, we tend to picture cars and smokestacks, not dinner. But the truth is, our need for food poses one of the biggest dangers to the planet.” – National Geographic
It’s hard to believe that Old McDonald could pose as big a threat as Exxon-Mobile, but the food system is one of the leading drivers of climate change and other environmental devastation.
The statistics are staggering:
- Switching from a hamburger to a veggie burger just once saves as much water as not showering for an entire month.
- The top 5 meat and dairy producers combined emit more GHG than Exxon Mobile, Shell, or BP
- If cows had their own country, they would be the third largest emitter of GHG behind China and the US.
These facts are shocking, but they actually paint a positive picture. While we have little control over national energy infrastructure or cap and trade legislation, we do have direct control over what we put on our plates. Food is one of the most powerful and direct ways that we can help stop the environmental catastrophes currently unfolding.
Eating more sustainably is not an all-or-nothing proposition. The important thing is to start somewhere. There are three main ways to do this:
- Routine Based: Eat plant-based meals one day per week, or one meal per day.
- Portion Based: Use meat as a garnish rather than the main bulk of the meal
- Meal Based: Start with plant-based dishes that you know you like, and opt for those whenever they’re available. This is as easy as ordering a veggie burrito instead of a beef burrito, or a falafel instead of lamb shawarma.
Rather than encouraging a small number of people to make large changes in their diets, we can encourage a large number of people to make small changes. After all, seven people eating plant-based one day per week has the same impact as one person being 100% vegetarian.
Institutions such as businesses, schools, and government agencies have tremendous power to encourage these small changes among their employees or students and achieve significant carbon, water, and land savings as a result. There are many programs designed to work with institutions to incorporate more plant-based options in catering menus and promote plant-based foods as a positive, empowering way that employees can come together around green eating.
Whatever the method, the important thing is to start somewhere. The more we can provide encouragement and share delicious eco-friendly food with each other, the more quickly we can bring about meaningful change.