Less Meat, Less Heat: Addressing Climate Change with Meatless Monday

Among the benefits of the highly publicized convening of world leaders at this week's UN Climate Summit is the event's capacity to thrust climate change to the forefront of the public consciousness. We're hoping therefore that while the diplomats hash out policy recommendations at the summit, the rest of us will feel inspired to take action to address climate change in our own lives. Of course, as a sustainable food advocacy organization, we suggest starting with the fork. As my colleague James Rose describes, the easiest way to shrink your dietary carbon footprint is to simply reduce the amount of food you waste. But if you're willing to adjust your food choices (even just slightly), there's an even greater opportunity for carbon savings: reducing meat consumption.

As a result of animals' digestive processes, the decomposition of manure and the production of grain used as feed, meat and dairy products have large carbon footprints. Ruminants generate the most greenhouse gas emissions; production of a pound of beef generates about 30 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents (as compared to about two pounds of CO2e to produce a pound of dry beans).

Given this impact, our friends at Meatless Monday have joined the Climate Week action campaign, proposing an easy way to cut back on meat consumption: simply going meatless on Mondays. Learn more about the benefits on the Meatless Monday site, and show your support by signing the Meat Free Monday pledge.

Before industrial livestock apologists accuse us of promoting an uncompromising vegan agenda, or of receiving kickbacks from the all-powerful Big Broccoli lobby, please note that you don't have to give up meat in order to take this action! All you have to do is not eat so much of it. As longtime proponents of sustainable agriculture - which involves production of not only fruits and vegetables, but of meat, eggs and dairy products as well - GRACE has always encouraged responsible consumption of animal products. This means choosing meat, eggs and dairy from farms and ranches that raise animals sustainably, in a manner that safeguards the environment, public health and surrounding communities, rather than foods from factory farms, which do exactly the opposite.

In short, we propose taking the Meatless Monday climate week action one step further: eat less meat, but eat better meat when you do.

Learn more about sustainable meat and its benefits at Sustainable Table, and find farms, stores, farmers' markets, restaurants and other purveyors of sustainable meat using our Eat Well Guide.