Meat Free Monday – How a plant-based diet can help save the planet?

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based – these are all buzzwords that are currently filling everything from our social media feeds to our supermarket shelves. From bland, dry dishes such as mushroom stroganoff that dominated the vegetarian restaurant scene a mere ten years or so ago, to the multitude of plant-based cafes and restaurants that dominate in the foodie community today, there has been a huge shift in how we perceive this diet choice. Our supermarket shelves are filled with vegan burgers that ‘bleed’, cheesecakes that are free from any animal products, and this increase in the vegan food market represents the growing popularity and adoption of a plant-based lifestyle. But why are so many people ditching the pepperoni pizza and beef burgers in favor of tofu and chickpeas?

As well as the obvious ethical implications that come with switching to a vegan diet, it is also becoming more and more apparent that a diet void of animal products can, in fact, have a massive impact on our environment. Researchers at The University of Oxford conducted a study that has suggested that eating a vegan diet could be the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental impact on our planet. The study suggested that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73% and that if everyone stopped eating these foods, they found that global farmland usage could be reduced by 75%. This would produce a serious drop in greenhouse gas emissions, but would also free up wild land that has been lost to agriculture, which is one of the primary causes for mass animal extinction. It also helps save water. It takes 100 to 200 times more water to raise a pound of beef than it does to raise a pound of plant foods, cutting down on just one kilo of beef saves 15,000 liters of water. A vegan diet, therefore, can help combat world hunger by freeing up land previously used for agriculture that can instead be used to grow larger quantities of nutritionally dense plants; it can help reduce water shortages; it can help reduce deforestation and therefore the extra trees can help purify the air; and it reduces energy consumption as raising livestock requires a large amount of energy.

Whilst having a positive environmental impact, a vegan or plant-based diet is extremely good for your health. A well-balanced vegan diet contains all the protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals that you need, it is also low in saturated fat and free from animal protein, cholesterol and hormones – all linked to disease. Compared to meat-eaters, vegans weigh less, have lower cholesterol, blood pressure and rates of type 2 diabetes. They have a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease and lower cancer rates.

If an entire overhaul of your current lifestyle seems like a daunting prospect, then even the smallest of changes can have a big difference. For example, having one day a week that is free from animal products, such as meat-free Monday. The meat-free Monday campaign that was set up by Paul, Mary, and Stella McCartney in 2009, aims to draw awareness to the positive effects of a meat-free diet, even if it is just adopted for one day per week. At Bags of EthicsTM, we have a shared vegetarian meal one day each week. This encourages our staff to think about reducing their meat consumption, and also helps to reduce food waste. It goes to show that even the smallest of changes, such as swapping your spaghetti Bolognese to a meat-free Quorn version, can have a positive effect on the environment.

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