Just like many of you reading this right now, I’ve spent many an hour procrastinating on Facebook making myself depressed by watching video after video about habitat destruction; animal cruelty; climate change; food and plastic waste; energy consumption; drought; trophy killing; Donald Trump… yeah, you get me.
I was so inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio’s speech at the Oscars that I couldn’t help but watch it over and over and share it across every platform I could. But I also felt utterly helpless. What can one person really do to help fix the damage billions of people have created over generations?
Here’s Leo’s speech (skip to 1.56):
I am still a consumer. A polluter. A fossil-fuel guzzler.
I eat beef, chicken, processed ham, cheap paté, out of season fruit and I love the occasional cod and chips from the chippy.
I’m trying to consider the environmental consequences of my actions, but as long as I’m alive I will always be taking from Mother Nature, giving very little good back in return.
One day, after listening to a random TEDtalk by Treehugger founder and journalist, Graham Hill, he revealed something so simple to me that I’m hoping will change my life, my health and the future of the world, one small mouthful at a time.
His question: Knowing what I know, why am I not a vegetarian?
He covered the fact that 10 billion animals we raise each year for meat are raised in factory farm conditions. As a society, we’re eating twice as much meat as we did in the 50s. That meat causes more emissions than ALL transportation combined – planes, cars, boats, buses, trains etc. And beef production uses 100% more water than vegetables do. On average, 40% of global grain production is used in livestock feed (70% in richer countries). Producing 1kg of beef requires 15 times as much land as producing 1kg of cereals, and 70 times as much land as 1kg of vegetables (read more from the WWT on Livestock Impacts).
We all know this right? Or at least have some kind of idea of the impacts the meat industry has. Yet we still consume meat, more and more. So again, knowing what I know, why am I not a vegetarian?
He goes on to talk about how hard it is to make the change to becoming a full-blown vegetarian. His solution, doing it part-time. He called it “WEEKDAY VEG”.
Nothing with a face Monday to Friday.
What’s the point of that? I hear you say.
Well, society only seems to offer a binary solution, you’re either in or you’re out. This way, those good intentions diminish when competing with your taste buds or the peer pressure. It doesn’t need to be like that. There are no hard and fast rules to the way we are supposed to eat, only the ones you set yourself.
So I mulled this over a lot in my mind. Simple, but so clearly an amazing idea.
I decided to take it on.
Graham goes on to mention that if you want to consider your impact a little more, the major culprits to environmental damage and health are red and processed meats. Switching in good sustainable fish is another way of cutting down. By utilising this method you can reduce your meat impact by over 70%. Now that’s something right? And that’s not even mentioning the money you would save.
At the time of writing, I’m almost two weeks in and I’m really enjoying it (although I did scoff a mini sausage roll at work drinks). I’m exploring new foods, buying lots of different kinds of veg and trying out totally new recipes. And if I break the rules like my cheeky sausage roll? I don’t beat myself up because I could either turn that day into my flex day or just eat even more veggies to make up for it. So far I’ve made two amazing veggie lasagnes; slurped a whole variety of veggies soups from the work canteen; eaten a kale, bean, goats cheese and beetroot salad; bought a falafel wrap; eaten loads more fruit including banana, blueberries, pineapple and tangerines; whizzed up my very own sweet potato hummus; and made a scrumptious snack of mushrooms on pita with garlic, onion, cream and parsley. #Nom.
Fancy changing the world one meat-free meal at a time?
I’ll let you know how I get on and I may even post the odd recipe, but I’d love to know if anyone is considering joining me on this challenge to change the world one meat-free meal at a time?
If you have 5.45 minutes spare you can watch Graham’s TEDtalk here: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian: