By Diane Dreier, Guest Blogger
I was in Vancouver, Canada, recently and an article in the local newspaper caught my eye. It was entitled: “Meatless Monday Makes a Statement”. The writer, Eleanor Boyle, talked about how the city of Vancouver had endorsed “Meatless Monday”. The concept has its roots in a campaign to reserve food for fighting soldiers during World War I to aid the war effort. In 2003, the concept re-emerged from a public health campaign by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health which focused on helping tackle the problems of cholesterol and heart disease – two factors associated with eating too much meat. At the time, the Surgeon General had recommended reducing meat consumption by 15% in order to cut down on saturated fat intake. Since 15% translates to about one day a week, it seemed a reasonable solution to eliminate meat on one day each week.
The concept of one meatless day a week has taken a while to catch on, but now, “Meatless Monday” is an international campaign. Local governments, hospitals, schools and even fancy restaurants are on board. Famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batalli, and John Fraser have pledged to go meat-free in their restaurants on Mondays.
Just to be clear – “Meatless Monday” is not about people becoming vegetarians. In fact, the man responsible for the original advertising campaign states that eating meatless dishes on Monday is not meant to be a hardship, simply an alternative. Because it is a sensible alternative, it has become both popular and attractive.
Even the most hard core carnivores among us would have to concede that there would indeed be health benefits to substituting other foods for meat 15% of the time. Medical professionals tell us that going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Beyond health benefits to individuals who adopt this strategy, experts say that there would be enormous benefits to the planet on which we all reside.
One meatless day a week can help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel. As Ms. Boyle pointed out in her article, large scale, factory meat farms use large amounts of agricultural land and fresh water, involve massive deforestation, emit huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and its output of excessive manure ends up contaminating water and even food itself.
An added dimension to the “Meatless Monday” campaign is to encourage consumers to buy locally and sustainably produced meat products. The animals receive more humane treatment, are fed without antibiotics, and the process results in less stress on the environment.
Why “Meatless Monday” and not Meatless Tuesday? The idea is that Monday is the beginning of the week and sets the tone for the rest of the week. Even if you’ve made unhealthy food choices over the weekend, Monday is the day for a fresh start to make healthier decisions.
Meatless Monday is a meaningful change that everyone can make with very little effort. It’s easy to remember. And the most important part is that it’s good for your health and good for the planet.
©2013 by I Choose A Clean World