Going Meatless: Greener Plate, Greener Planet

Meatless salad with soup. Photo Courtesy of pixabay.com

Digging In

I have a confession to make. I love meat. I have gone through various eating periods in my life, including vegetarian, vegan, and now fall somewhere around well-mannered carnivore. I’ve felt healthy on all three diets, and connected to my reasons for my eating habits within each change. After being meatless for ten years, and when I decided to start eating meat again, I realized that my connection to the meat I would be consuming was almost zero. That’s when I decided to start farming up at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. While there, I became more closely aware of the world renowned chef and author, Dan Barber, and his recently released book titled “The Third Plate.” If you haven’t heard of it or haven’t read it, I highly recommend picking up a copy, if for no other reason than to have a better understanding of our country’s agricultural history and why we’ve adapted to certain diets as a result of food production since the industrial revolution. To really dissect Barber’s book, this would need to be a much longer article. The main point of relevance here is that Barber suggests that our health and our environment would be in a much better place if we ate within the seasonal cycles of produce and livestock, and cut back greatly on our consumption of meat. In short, Dan encourages small changes to our daily eating practices that can make a much larger impact on the planet over time. 

Photo Courtesy of amiyarestaurant.com

To meat or not to meat? That is the question.

Here’s the deal: raising livestock takes a lot of water. And saying “a lot” is more than an understatement, so let’s check out the numbers. The average global water footprint to produce one pound of beef is 1,799 gallons of water. One pound of pork requires about 576 gallons of water. One pound of chicken takes 468 gallons of water. And even one chicken egg requires 53 gallons of water on average to produce. Human beings have only recently begun to admit to, and accept the fact that our world is in a water crisis. So why are so many of us still supporting an agricultural system that only exacerbates the problem? Why do I, knowing this information still decide to consume meat? Well, it would be unrealistic to expect that our behavior could change so quickly, and the fact is, meat is heavily embedded in many of our cultures and customs as celebration. In the immediate future, our world is not going vegetarian, though there are opinions that it might be necessary. The alternative is to take small steps towards creating change through our daily choices, as a collective. 

Chickens in cages. Photo Courtesy of pexels.com

Introducing, Meatless Monday 

Meatless Monday is a global movement that relies on one message: “One day a week, cut the meat.” The goal of Meatless Monday is to reduce our planet’s consumption of meat by 15%, encouraging people to leave meat off the plate for just one day per week. It’s simple, it’s attainable, and it’s a communal effort with a history spanning 100 years. The benefits of this weekly practice make both a physical and an environmental impact. On a physical level, cutting the meat helps you to maintain a healthy body weight and reduces your overall risk of heart disease. On a global scale, the impact is huge: skipping one serving of beef every Monday for a year saves the equivalent emissions to driving 348 miles in a car! That’s a fact that’s hard to fight. Perhaps it’s the low-key nature of this initiative’s request which has made it such a great success, and we should look to it as an inspiration for other small-change, large-impact actions we could be taking to improve our planet in other ways. For now, let’s look at how to be a part of it, and check out some of the great veggie-friendly restaurants that Jersey City has to offer.

Meatless platter. Photo Courtesy of cadryskitchen.com

Where To Eat Your Veggies  

Jersey City is known for its great Indian food, and many Indian dishes are meat-free, so I’ll highlight a couple of those spots first. One of my favorites, Sapthagiri has a huge menu of delicious options. Another great option is Vatan, and I’d order from the Indo-Chinese section on the menu for perhaps new options that you’ve never tried. If you’re looking to fulfill your burger and hotdog cravings, while still keeping it veggie, head to Tea. There you’ll find an extensive menu of mock-meat dishes, as well as a ton of vegan breakfast items. If you’re aiming for something that’s on the healthier side, and want to get your tofu and seitan cravings filled, head to Subia’s. This spot is totally organic, and also offers a juice bar and smoothie menu. Lastly, there’s always the option to cook at home! Make it a communal effort to have Meatless Monday dinners and have the gang over for a little dining in.

Meatless Burger. Photo Courtesy of Subia’s