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Healthy Planet

You’re probably familiar with the concept of Meatless Monday, whether or not you practice it in your family. The habit of going vegetarian at the start of each week has been gaining momentum in homes, restaurants, businesses, and schools ever since a marketing maven named Sid Lerner got the idea to promote Meatless Monday as public health-awareness campaign in 2003.

We at EcoPel, the Environmental Coalition of the Pelhams, believe there are many reasons to favor a plant-based diet on Mondays and all other days, and we discuss them at least twice a year during the Healthy Planet Potluck community dinners we sponsor in the fall and spring.

In case you missed the most recent Healthy Planet dinner on Nov. 7th, we’d like to review some of the health and environmental justifications for eschewing meat.

Just weeks ago, the World Health Organization issued statements linking processed meats such as bacon to colorectal cancer and advising consumers to reduce consumption of these products.

On the flip side, eating plant foods helps to offset dietary imbalances. Plant foods are high in fiber and disease-fighting phytonutrients, cholesterol-free, and the most nutrient-dense foods of all.

The United Nations recommends eating less meat to help with world hunger. Animals are an inefficient way to create food for human consumption. It takes about 1,800 precious gallons of water (vs. 34 gallons for broccoli and cauliflower) and 12-16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef.  Furthermore, some 90% of the food energy that animals eat is lost in bones, feathers, hair, and excrement, and only 10% makes its way onto a dinner plate.

Meat production is the heaviest single contributor to greenhouse gases. More than 30% of the earth’s land mass is used to grow crops to feed animals and for grazing. Land use for animals is the main cause of loss of biodiversity (65% in the Amazon).  Cow pies produce 28% of methane gas emissions.

Together with nitrous oxide, which is used in fertilizer and is a potent greenhouse contributor, animals are responsible for 65% of emissions. That is more than driving cars. For this reason, it is said that a meat-eating Prius driver has a larger carbon footprint than a vegetarian Hummer owner. At a time of water shortages and droughts, nearly half of the water in the United States is used for the care, feeding, and transporting of animals from the farm to the table.

Food brings us together — at our family table, in others’ homes, and in restaurants around the world. Changing eating habits is a gradual process, and Meatless Monday offers a way to ease more plant foods into the diet on a regular basis.

It is estimated that if all people in the U.S. participated in Meatless Monday, it would be equivalent to taking 7.6 million cars off the road. EcoPel encourages Pelhamites to make a difference, one Monday at a time.