Eating less meat and dairy is the number one best thing you can do as an individual for the environment (according to many sources). So while giving up plastic water bottles and cleaning up our cleaning products have been great steps in the right direction, this challenge is probably the most impactful of all so far.
It’s easy to picture how many water bottles you will save by giving them up, but it’s harder to picture the impact of our meat-eating habits, so here are a few stats that have helped me understand the situation a little better.
According to a study in the journal Scientific Reports, if every person in the US reduced their consumption of beef, pork, and poultry by 1/4 and substituted in plant proteins, we’d save about 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That would be a reduction of about 1% of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. (source)
In another study, researchers recommend a “flexitarian” diet, which involves occasionally eating meat. For this to make a positive impact, the average global citizen would have to eat 90 percent less pork, 75 percent less beef, and half the number of eggs they normally consume. By their estimates, a global shift towards a flexitarian diet would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 56%. (source)
No matter which way you look at it, if we all cut down on our meat and dairy consumption, becoming flexitarians or vegetarians, it will do the planet good.
This challenge is admittedly easy-ish for me personally. I’ve never been a big meat eater, especially when it comes to red meat. I crave a burger on the first day of my period and that’s about it. Ever since I was a kid, I was always turned off by it. And I’ve been (cow) dairy-free for over 10 years except for what I when I was pregnant with Amalia.
What’s more challenging for me is cutting back on chicken. We eat chicken 1-2x/week, and I have eggs almost daily. In reading more about this topic, eggs don’t have nearly as much of an environmental impact so for my personal challenge, I’m not going to be cutting back on eggs unless I learn something new. Check out this carbon footprint food calculator to see how your diet stacks up.
The broad challenge this month is simply this: eat less meat and dairy. That might mean eating beef 2x/week instead of every night. That might mean cutting out your weekly chicken parm sandwich from the deli. And it might mean switching to oat milk creamer in your coffee. The first step is figuring out what it means for you and your family. And then sticking to whatever you decide all month long.
If you’re ready to swap out your burgers for veggie burgers (these are the best veggie burgers btw), check out my favorite plant-based recipe blogs and some more articles to learn more below. Are you in?
Plant-Based Recipe Sites
Cookie & Kate
Pinch of Yum (not all vegetarian but has a lot of great plant-based recipes)
Love & Lemons
Want to Save the Environment? Eat Less Meat (Mental Floss)
UN Climate Change Report Making You Want to Cut Meat? (Foodprint.org)
Eating Less Meat & More Plants Helps the Environment (Greenpeace)
Why Eating Less Meat is the Best Thing You Can Do for the Planet (The Guardian)
What if we All Ate a Little Bit Less Meat (New York Times)
Carbon Footprint Food Calculator (BBC)
How to Order Plant-Based Meals at Any Restaurant (MindBodyGreen)
Love this challenge! I read somewhere that becoming vegetarian reduces your carbon footprint more than driving an electric car does. One thing to note about dairy alternatives is that not all are created equal with environmental impact. Most but milks require so much water to produce that they are still environmental strains. I’ve read that pea milk is one of the better dairy free milk alternatives. It’s obviously not a be all end all, but it is something I hadn’t considered until exploring a bit.
I have been vegetarian for almost 3 years. I thought it was going to be super challenging at first but it really isn’t that hard! Just make sure you get plant based proteins (beans, chickpeas, nuts, tofu) in at every meal.
Other website- Minimalist Baker is an awesome resource for healthy, filling, delicious plant based recipes!
I’ll check it out, thanks for the tip!
Yes!! I’m in.
Can you share your meal plans and favorite recipes?
For sure! Will share as I go.
All of Ottolenghi”s cookbooks have great vegetarian recipes!
Oh good call! I actually have one of them. Will whip it out this month for sure.
Yes!! Favorite challenge yet!! I am a vegetarian that will eat fish on some occasions- idk where fish really falls in the sustainability realm because I feel like the research is conflicting on that topic..but this challenge will be great to finally get me to cut down on dairy! I do not eat a ton, and the only dairy I really eat is in the form of cheese, so hopefully I can be successful at cutting that consumption down! I am excited for this one, Julia! I agree that this will have the biggest impact!! 🙂
Such a great reminder! I’m already doing this (for the most part) but could always use more recipe ideas!
Which veggie burgers do you recommend? It wasn’t in bold so I couldn’t click on link… thanks!!!
A great flexitarian cookbook is Mostly Plants by the Pollan family.
Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow is another on point cookbook with mostly vegetarian and flexitarian recipes.