By Katie Cantrell, US Program Manager, Green Monday
What do the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have in common? They're both promoting sustainable food choices!
Green Monday has been working with a coalition of environmental and animal welfare student groups at UCLA to encourage university dining services to promote sustainable vegetarian meals. Highlighting vegetarian meals on Mondays is one of the easiest and most effective ways for both individuals and institutions to shrink their carbon and water footprints, and raise awareness about the critical connection between food and sustainability.
Concern about climate change is steadily growing, as California faces a devastating drought, dramatic temperature records and weather pattern shifts are recorded around the world. Yet even in the face of growing evidence, people are often prevented from taking action because they do not know what individual changes will be effective. This is why Green Monday is so critical: it provides a tangible action that can be taken to make change on a daily basis. Not only is choosing veg easy and healthy, it's also effective. Eating one plant-based meal without meat or dairy saves 133 gallons of water, 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 24 square feet of land.
Once the university was reassured that students supported the initiative, they agreed to host a 5-week pilot program. Rather than featuring vegetarian specials at each dining hall, as is the standard procedure for Green Monday, UCLA decided to go a step further and make one dining hall completely vegetarian every Monday. Each week, over 1,200 students are eating a fully vegetarian dinner.
The impacts of this initiative are huge. Over the course of the 5-week pilot, UCLA will have saved roughly 798,000 gallons of water, 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 144,000 square feet of land. This is equivalent to over 300 years' worth of showers, and over 18,000 miles of driving!
Better yet, UCLA is helping to cultivate a culture of sustainability. As more and more people learn that they can help themselves and the planet by eating delicious food, plant-based eating is becoming a powerful social movement. The easiest and most impactful action everyone can take starts from our dining plates.