By David Alexander, Toronto Vegetarian Association Executive Director

spicesMonday is World Meat Free Day. It couldn’t come at a better time. 2016 is shaping up to be a milestone year for environmental advocacy and education. And front-and-centre is the question of what we eat and where it comes from.

In January, the United Nations declared 2016 to be International Year of Pulses in honour of lentils, chickpeas, beans, and other legumes. The UN promotes pulses because they pack a nutritious protein punch. They can be grown with less land, water, and energy than what’s needed to raise livestock. And unlike cows, pulses don’t emit massive amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 25-times as potent as CO2.

In March, Oxford researchers studied the potential of a global shift towards plant-based eating. They estimated this could save millions of lives and reduce food-related emissions by 30-70%. The study, reported by Reuters, detailed health benefits from eating less red meat, more fruits & vegetables, and fewer calories overall. They estimated the economic benefits of such a shift would save more than $1 trillion worldwide.

Canadian environmental champion David Suzuki is also on board. In April, he penned an article imploring Canadians to eat less meat. His article cites the negative effects of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from animal agriculture. “The environment and climate would benefit substantially if more people gave up or at least cut down on meat and animal products, especially in over-consuming Western societies.”
So let’s celebrate World Meat Free Day:

  • Quinoa-salad-3-600x400Heading out for lunch? Find somewhere you can sink your teeth into a delicious black bean burger or a savoury chana masala.
    Click here to find Toronto-area restaurants in our Veg Directory
  • At the grocery store? Add some hummus, kidney beans, or tofu to your cart.
  • Look for plant-based meat and dairy alternatives. At most grocery / health food stores it’s easy find delicious meat-free chicken, sausage, lunch meats, and ground beef. And the products keep getting better and better.

Let’s celebrate our personal capacity to make a positive impact. Let’s continue to pressure governments, corporations, and other institutions to protect the planet. But let’s also remember we can make choices each day that help or hinder the health of life on this planet.

“The bottom line,” writes David Suzuki, “is that cutting down on or eliminating meat and other animal products from our diets is necessary for protecting humanity from runaway climate change.”

Click here to access a bunch of great recipes that make it easy to eat Meat Free on Mondays!