Environmental Vegetarianism: How Meatless Monday can help save our environment


Vegetarianism often conjures up the image of animal rights supporters. However, it can go further than the ethical treatment of animals. Environmental vegetarianism is a form of diet where the chief concern is the impact of meat production on our planet.

From the land use in raising livestock and building factories, to the transportation of the meat products, to the refrigeration and marketing of the products, an omnivore’s diet uses considerably more land and energy resources than that of a vegetarian diet.

Environmental Impact

Taking into consideration all aspects of meat production from the raising of the livestock to the storage in grocery stores, livestock contributes 18% of greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalence [1]. It is a combination of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. According to a New Scientist article, one kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gases than driving your car for more than three hours [2].

Pollution begins with the raising of livestock. Land is set aside for the cultivation of livestock wherein they further deplete the land of carbon offsetting plants through grazing.

In the next step, more emissions are released into the atmosphere through the production phase with slaughtering and packaging by use of fossil fuels. The next sector, transportation of the meat products, contributes more greenhouse gases before it is distributed to the stores. Upon reaching grocery stores, even more energy is needed to refrigerate the meats.

A vegetarian diet uses less land by reducing the need of large factories. Additionally, local produce requires shorter distance to transport from farm to market. Upon arrival at the grocery stores, produce items need considerably less refrigeration than meat products. By participating in a vegetarian diet, even once a week, we can cut back on the environmental degradation of an omnivore diet.

Meatless Monday

You may not be against eating meat for ethical reasons but this Monday, why not try cutting meat out of your diet for the environment?  Meatlessmonday.com is a website geared towards cutting out meat one day a week and features many delicious recipes.


Furthermore, Austin is a city full of delicious vegetarian options.


[1] Steinfeld, H. (2006). Livestock’s long shadow: Environmental issues and options. FAO. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

[2] Fanelli, D. “Meat Is Murder on the Environment,” New Scientist 18 Jul. 2007.




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2 responses to “Environmental Vegetarianism: How Meatless Monday can help save our environment

  1. sarobinson

    A few things worth noting:
    1.) Your assessment of the environmental impacts of the commercial beef production is well put–if anything understated when it comes to land use impacts, particularly grazing on federal lands intended for multiple use.
    2.) Commercial beef is not the same as “meat,” as it is particularly impactful. Looking at 5 similar studies, not one included wild game. It is probable that the impacts of a commercial vegetarian diet including fertilization, water use and transportation are greater. The impact of a diet may well be more related to packaging and place of origin than type. Clearly, more study is needed on this topic.

  2. claudedebussy7

    First off, I would like to say that this article could have been written by my girlfriend. She was the first person to introduce the idea of abstaining from meat for energy purposes instead of health, weight-loss, or ethical purposes. In most respects, those should all be thought of as bonuses of a vegetarian diet in the anyway.

    After reading this, I have started Meatless Monday, and one of the other great benefits that I have discovered outside of saving energy has been the forced opportunities to cook something outside of my comfort zone.

    However, will the spread of Meatless Monday get people to eat more meat every other time of the week? Load up on BBQ on Sundays to last until Tuesday? I do sense that there could be a bit of Jevon’s Paradox coming into play for Meatless Monday (assuming that it catches on). That phenomenon remains to be seen.

    As for some number crunching, the mile equivalent of one pound of beef is the equivalent of driving 27 miles [1] (that mile equivlent study was apparently done at Carnegie Mellon, but I can only find other sources that reference Carnegie Mellon and I cannot find any thing from Carnegie Mellon itself. Take the citation for what it is worth). Therefore, subtracting the 3 pounds or so of beef (or more in the equivalent of chicken, other meat, or simply eating more than 3 pounds) that we would consume on one Monday multiplied by the world’s population saves 550 billion miles of driving every single week. Hopefully, more statistics can hit home with our fellow omnivores and provide incentive to think about the impact of our diets’ demand.
    [1] Carnegie Mellon University « PETA http://bit.ly/I7MfVs

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