Cutting meat out of dining hall menus one day a week through a Meatless Monday program would not only be in the interest of students’ health, but it would also have an incredible impact on the UofA’s carbon footprint.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization describes the meat industry as one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases to the environment. The Meatless Monday campaign offers a simple solution to the meat industry’s most negative impacts.

While students who elect to have their own Meatless Monday — making the personal choice to cut meat out of their diet one day a week — reduce their individual carbon footprint, the Meatless Monday campaign has an opportunity to be truly impactful when a large group, like a student body, engages with it.

The preparation, processing and distribution of animals both before and after their slaughter globally consumes more than a quadrillion gallons of water yearly and compensates for 65% of human-related nitrous oxide emissions, according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

This drastic consumption of natural resources greatly reduces Earth’s biodiversity, a measurement scientists use to determine the planet’s ability to sustain life.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) of the United Nations named meat consumption as one of the six prime factors contributing to the loss of biodiversity on Earth.

The meat industry, fueled by consumer demand, has a detrimental impact on the environment.

A recent IPBES-supported study suggested that the planet’s descent can only be slowed by the choices of consumers. It's up to individuals to cut their meat consumption for a positive impact on Earth’s ecosystem.

Although this might sound like a demand for widespread vegetarianism, the solution fortunately isn’t so drastic. Reduction of worldwide meat consumption is enough to curb the erroneous consumption of natural resources by the meat industry.

Meatless Monday is no brand new idea.

The campaign has roots in the U.S. domestic World War I and World War II efforts to save dietary staples for soldiers fighting abroad, and experienced a revival in 2003 following health-advocating campaigns by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future.

Meatless Monday promoters intend to reduce the meat industry's negative impact on the environment and improve the health of its participants. By making a once-a-week plan for reducing meat consumption, it allows accessibility for anyone to reap the benefits of vegetarianism without drastic lifestyle or dietary changes.

Beyond the health benefits and environmental impacts, consuming less meat can help save money, according to U.S. News & World Report.

A vegetarian diet costs less on average than even an economical diet including meat. Several studies, like one conducted by the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, have proven a vegetarian diet can save Americans up to $786 every year.

That’s over 25% savings from the average of $2,641 spent on groceries per person per year.

For college students who might already be trying to eat as inexpensively as possible, eating a diet including less meat is an easy step toward spending less money on food.

Considering the benefits — a smaller carbon footprint, improved health, and reduced food costs — Meatless Monday belongs at the UofA.

Going meatless in the on-campus dining halls one day a week would have an enormous impact on the environment. To put consumption in perspective, the production of a single quarter-pound

hamburger patty requires about 460 gallons of water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

To reduce this type of natural resource consumption on a campus-wide scale would serve to progress the university’s ambitious sustainability goals, which are detailed on the UA Office of Sustainability’s website.

Finally, meat consumption can be unhealthy. Processed meats and fatty red meats have high amounts of saturated fat, the consumption of which increases risk for a heart attack or heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Other AHA studies have even indicated that those who consume little to no meat are at a lower risk for cancer and Type 2 Diabetes.

Hosting a single meatless dining day a week isn’t asking every campus diner to become a committed vegetarian; it’s simply presenting them with an opportunity to minimize their impact on the environment and easily eat healthier than they might typically.

The Arkansas Union Food Court and other chain dining options on campus would always serve their usual menu for students who are not interested in taking part in Meatless Monday.

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