‘Meatless Mondays’ As a Program for Environmental Stability and Public Health

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Giuseppe Ricapito

Two of America’s modern social crises are attaining further recognition in the communities of Southern California. The growing concern over obesity and the preservation of our natural resources are receiving further examination through local advocacy in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. A developing advocacy campaign known as “Meatless Mondays” is a movement toward reducing meat consumption by up to 15 percent for individuals as an environmentally friendly strategy for improving public health.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health has endorsed “Meatless Mondays” as a global non-profit effort to bring awareness about the effects of meat consumption on personal well-being as well as the environment. The “Meatless Mondays” website provides tips about sustainability and even suggests health conscious recipes to substitute for meals that include animal flesh. This site has ultimately provided the model for a global movement that grows from the grassroots advocacy of individuals in their local communities.

In a recent L.A. Initiative by the same title, co-sponsored by City Council Members Jan Perry and Ed Reyes, was unanimously passed in 12-0 vote and asks residents to voluntarily eat vegetarian for one day out of the week. The non-profit initiative is not an enforceable law, but rather the city’s recognition of a global enterprise to provide relief in the wake of fears over global warming.

Councilwoman Jan Perry believes that “the first step in improving personal and environmental health is through awareness.” The L.A. Initiative has already prompted many local restaurants and business to commit to the measure and get the word out to a large and diverse community previously unaware of the grassroots movement. Perry and Reyes have spearheaded this L.A. initiative in order to lessen the environmental weight a large city like Los Angeles has on the local climate.

“The small changes we make every day can have a tremendous impact. Meatless Monday is about raising awareness. It is not a requirement, but rather a call for all of us to think about our environment, the food we eat, and how we can be a part of making ourselves healthier,” said Perry.

According to Worldwatch Institute: Vision for a Sustainable World, the almost insatiable American desire for animal products has been a prime contributor to most contemporary environmental issues. The overuse of available farmland, the deforestation and erosion of previously unpolluted environments and just the sheer mass of natural resources required to sustain the meat industry have prompted many campaigns to limit man’s effect on the Earth.

What many people do not consider when sitting down to a steak dinner is the comprehensive process and massive amount of energy and natural resources involved in the production of meat products.

Councilwoman Perry cited some of the actual environmental benefits by going vegetarian one day a week.

“You can reduce your carbon footprint by over eight pounds per day…save half a gallon of gasoline per day; reduce your saturated fat intake by 15 percent (per meatless meal); and reduce your risk of heart disease by 19 percent,” said Perry.

“Meatless Mondays” has even found local success, right here on the University of California Santa Barbara campus. For those that can remember the fare at UCSB Residential Dining Commons, and for those who eat there daily, vegetarian options and a salad bar are offered consistently for lunches and dinner.

According to Bonnie Crouse, Assistant Director for the UCSB Residential dining spoke about how the De La Guerra, Ortega and Carrillo Dining Halls participate in “Meatless Mondays.”

“We have a rotating system where one of the Dining Halls every Monday will have exclusively vegetarian options,” said Crouse. “The Dining Halls like to keep it positive. We refer to the idea as vegetarian rather than ‘meatless’ because of its beneficial contributions that it can make to a person as well as towards environmental sustainability.”

“Meatless Mondays” has promoted a dialogue attesting to an individual’s ability to make a profound environmental impact simply through their personal consumption choices.

Santa Barbara City College student Parker Ames ate as a vegetarian for eight years.

“Eating vegetarian has taught me to improvise with different foods and improved my cholesterol,” said Ames. “I’ve found that my personal health has been benefited by eating fruits and vegetables—you can get your necessary protein from many other sources besides meat.”

The recent L.A. Initiative has brought greater local awareness toward the growing issues related to United States obesity and the efficacy of environmental sustainability. Grassroots movements and community campaigns, in Santa Barbara and beyond, are a testament to the many individuals dedicated to cleaning up our environment and our appetites.

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