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
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)