Meatless Mondays: the environmental impact of going plant-based for just one day a week

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

It doesn’t have to be just Monday. Going plant-based for just one day a week offers plenty of benefits for the planet and everyone on it.

Speaking at the Plant-Based Asia Summit this week, Janice Joeng, partnership and impact development at Green Monday, share how substituting real meat for plant-based even for just one day a week helps reduce your environmental footprint. 

A social venture business based in Hong Kong, Green Monday seeks to take on the world’s most pressing crises: climate change, global food insecurity, and public health.

“Under environmental impact, IPCC shared in one of its statements that we cannot be more certain that humans are warming up the planet”, shares Joeng. “If we don’t take actions right now to slash emission, we will be reaching 1.5 degrees celsius by 2040.”

According to Joeng, the food system is one of the main drivers of Greenhouse gases (GHG), causing weather inconsistencies like heat waves, heavy rainfall, and drought.

Carbon dioxide emission accounts for nearly 27 per cent in comparison to other sectors like transportation and manufacturing. Out of this 27 per cent, two-thirds is from the agriculture industry, and one third from lifestyle and fish farming.

Methane emissions are known to be the second greatest pollutant next to carbon dioxide. These are released from cattle manure and fuels used in fisheries. 

Last but not least is Nitrous Oxide, one of the most potent greenhouse gases on the planet, shared Joeng.

“When nitrous oxide runs-off to reverse water waste, it causes algae to bloom with growth, that in turn affects the entire ecosystem of the ocean and the sea, and it reduces the growth of fish and shellfish and so on.“

Food security

Biodiversity supports food production, including pollination, creating healthy soil, water regulation, and carbon storage. These are crucial for wildlife habitats.

Joeng says unsustainable agriculture practices cause deforestation at an estimated rate of 10 billion hectares per year, and because of this, the world is experiencing a growing loss of biodiversity, affecting our food security and food production.

“With regards to our food production to feed our growing population, out of the 6000 plant species that can be cultivated for food production, fewer than 200 are consumed today. Just nine of them account for 70 per cent of our common food consumption.

“So it is very important right now for us to look into other food sources so that we can feed our growing population.”

Benefits of going plant-based for just one day a week

According to Joeng, if a person commits to a plant-based diet one day a week for an entire year (52 weeks), they can prevent nearly 300kg of carbon emission produced from the supply chain of meat production, equivalent to 13 trees. 

A fully-grown tree can absorb around 21kg of carbon dioxide per year. So over a lifetime of 100 years, one tree could absorb around a tonne of CO2.

In one year, going plant-based one can save around 446 million hectares of land from the supply chain and help feed 2855 people.

“It is the same for land use,” explains Joeng. “We can save 446 million hectares of land, which is approximately the land size of Morocco.”

How is plant-based more environment friendly than meat? 

In a World Economic Forum report titled “Can you eat to save the climate?” shared by Joeng, the statistics showed that planting or growing 1kg of peas produces 75 fewer carbon emissions than obtaining 1kg of beef. This amount already accounts for the entire supply chain – from land use to farming methods to transportation up to distribution. 

Meatless Mondays: the environmental impact of going plant-based for just one day a week

Joeng used peas as an example, but as can be seen from the data above, meat production produces the most GHG while vegetables like peas, bananas, maise, and rice produce the least.

Conscious change without compromise

Joeng believes that consumers can help the environment without compromising on the food they eat in terms of taste, price, and convenience. But, at the same time, players in the food production industry have to be challenged on their practices. 

Individuals planning to go plant-based once a week can increase their intake of whole foods and substitute beef with alternative protein, whether they are dining outside or at home. 

“If you look at the plant-based options that we have now, it is a very interesting space and time, where we can see that there are a variety of plant-based options,” explains Joeng.

Plant-based food is more accessible now more than ever. It’s available in restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels. Even convenience stores like 7-Eleven are now offering plant-based alternatives

“So, overall, there are a lot of opportunities and touchpoints that individuals can do to adopt plant-based daily or even once a week,” she concluded.

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.

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