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Let them eat meat

Posted by: iOnGreen


There’s no way around it. Getting an office to ‘go green’ is a huge challenge. Us office workers are all very much set in our ways.

Whether we prefer to read lengthy reports on paper instead of on screen, or to throw all our rubbish into the closest bin without a second thought, we generally don’t like to have to change.

We detest anything that requires effort while yielding limited reward. Heaven forbid we should do something for which we may never see tangible results.

When the ITWeb Green Team was first established we brainstormed a number of practical ideas that could be implemented in the office – with the least resistance. Switching off lights, placing more recycling bins and recycling ink cartridges all got the ‘green’ light.

We also tried something else though. Something a little more radical. Something that required a little more buy-in from our co-workers. Something known as (cue dramatic music) “Meat Free Mondays”.

Shock! Horror! How would we ever be able to go a lunch break without chicken or beef?! The mind boggles.

In all seriousness though, our canteen chef was on board and happy to leave meat off the Monday lunch special and offer innovative vegetarian options instead. We thought it would hardly even be noticed if it was just phased it in with little fuss. But we were wrong.

It was just a matter of time before we were told that our co-workers were asking the canteen “where has the meat gone?”

Perhaps it was vegetarian naivety on my part for suggesting it, but I find it hard to believe that people find it so difficult to go a single meal without meat.

The Meat Free Monday campaign has been gaining global momentum. The city of Cape Town last year pledged support for the campaign, and a number of restaurants around the country have specially altered their Monday menus. Even Rhodes University is in the process of rolling out a campus wide campaign among students and in the dining halls.

But what does a hamburger have to do with going green one may ask? The answer: a lot.

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In a recent report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options”, it was noted that the livestock industry accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport industry. It is also a major cause of land and water degradation.

So while we’re all forming lift clubs, taking up cycling and trying video conferencing instead of flying, we could be making an even bigger impact by simply eating less meat.

A startling statistic is that the amount of water used in the production of a single hamburger patty is the equivalent of 20 years of drinking water for the average person.

One may think this sounds impossible, but all it requires is thinking beyond the final product on your plate (and some maths). It takes 900 litres of water to convert a cow into a carcass in the abattoir alone. That’s not including the amount of drinking water needed to raise the cow, or the water needed to grow the grain that fed it.

Chicken is also a firm favourite for South Africans but while we’re tucking into our family feasts, the broader impact of our eating habits is buried in the deep recesses of our minds (if it’s even there at all).

On average, 14.6 million broiler chickens are slaughtered every week in SA. This translates into 204 million litres of water at the abattoirs alone.

Compassion in World Farming SA says that if every South African family ate just one less chicken a month (note that this is a month not even a week!) it would save 1.5 billion litres of water. That’s enough drinking water for 21 000 low income families for a year.

And yet it would seem that it is too much to ask of us to give up one meaty meal a week. Indeed, the mind boggles.

The Green Team will however continue to take small steps in the right direction, and encourage the ITWeb office to do the same. Perhaps all it will take is a little more time and a little more information to get Meat Free Mondays off the ground.

As Margaret Mead famously said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Comments (2)Add Comment
written by Dissol, June 15, 2011
Good post. I have this ongoing nagging guilt, that I ought to be a vegetarian - for these reasons, and many others. But then I smell a bacon butty, and my resolve melts...

But I am sure that future generations will eat less meat that the present ones.
written by msbodetti, June 15, 2011
Why is this in the Digital blogs? It's a nice post...but I don't see the relevance in the Digital world.

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