A thick juicy steak, dripping with barbecue sauce.
A spicy lentil casserole, fragrant baked beans or golden cubes of tufu in a coconut-curry Thai sauce.
The choice is at the heart of this week’s Green Life challenge.
For some of you, it won’t be a big deal. In fact, you might get a free pass this week.
All you dedicated carnivores, though, might think it’s far tougher than the previous challenges — changing light bulbs and making more efficient use of your major appliances.
The Challenge: Eat less meat: To be specific, go vegan for one day a week. That means no animal products. Which means taking meat, poultry, fish and dairy off the menu. And not adding it on any of the other days.
Motivation: There are plenty of alternatives and most of them come with hefty health and environmental benefits. Many also taste just as good; just different.
Meat production consumes a lot of resources and is responsible for substantial pollution, including nearly one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — which makes it roughly equal to transportation as a contributor to climate change.
The average Canadian eats about 33 kilograms of beef and nearly 38 kilograms of poulty each year. Per capita consumption has declined a bit here in the past few decades, but globally, meat consumption has soared by 500 per cent since 1950 and is expected to rise 2 per cent annually until 2015.
Some other motivators:
- 70 per cent of Earth’s agriculture land is devoted to pasture or lfeed crops.
lOne-third ot global cereal crops go to feed livestock.
- Transporting that feed generates 160 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
- This is no joke. Cattle produce prodigious amounts of methane, which is 23 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. More than 35 litres of methane are generated for each litre of milk.
- Animal agriculture produces 100 million tonnes of methane per year, 85 per cent from digestion and the rest of lagoons where their wastes are stored.
A recent Japanese study says the energy consumed to produce a kilogram of beef is enough to drive a reasonably efficient car 100 kilometres or light a 100-watt bulb for 20 daysdays. This and many other tidbits are found in Mark Bittman's New York Times article Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler.
The average American eats about 100 grams of protein a day. That’s about twice the amount recommended by the U.S. government. Three quarters comes from animal products. So, dietary experts say, we could dramatically cut consumption without any ill effects and, in fact, probably less heart disease and cancer.
Put it all together, says Keith Stewart, of WWF-Canada, and switching from the average Canadian diet to meat-free would cut per capita greenhouse emissions by 1.3 tonnes a year. Since the average total is about 20 tonnes, that’s a substantial gain.
“Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan) we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today,” says blogger Elizabeth Neve, who proposed this challenge.
PROCESS: Eliminate animal products from your diet one day a week. Don’t increase their consumption the rest of the time.
There are plenty of recipes on the Internet. A good place to start is the Vegan Chef.
If you want to learn what it means to be an all-out Vegan.
And check out the Ethical Man, as he goes vegan.
COSTS AND SAVINGS: Hard to calculate, but plant-based foods are generally cheaper than animal products.
-- Peter Gorrie (Who doesn't eat meat but is big on fish and dairy so will find this a substantial challenge.)
Note from Catherine Porter: For those of you that think one day is extreme, check out this Californian who has pledged to eat only things out of his garden plot for the year, with a few exceptions. He calls it his "100-inch diet."