How to Be a Better Person in One Day


Tracy Shawn, M.A. author 




There’s a very easy practice that is beneficial for your health, pocketbook, lowers your overall carbon footprint—and can also be considered an ethical choice. You don’t have to sign any petitions, march in any protests, or even donate any of your money. What is it? It’s as simple as deciding to go vegetarian—even if it’s only one day a week.

According to an article in Business Insider, producing one kilogram of beef uses 77 times as much water as producing one kilogram of potatoes. In another example, production of lamb meat produces nearly 40 times as much carbon dioxide as the equivalent weight in tomatoes. Besides the energy used to produce beef, livestock flatulence creates methane, another contributing factor to global warming.

The kind of facilities that rear livestock using intensive methods, exist all across our country. These facilities, called factory farms, are environments in which animal cruelty is the stuff of everyday business. Livestock exist in containment areas where they can barely move; this alone, along with other horrors, ought to change people’s minds about eating factory-farmed animals. Unfortunately, the meat from these businesses often is what often lands on our plates, whether it is in our own kitchens or at our favorite fast food joints and restaurants.

According to Food and Water Watch, factory farms also pollute the air and water, as well as feeding their livestock antibiotics and hormones to kill diseases and maximize growth and, thereby, profit. Sometimes, too, the bacteria present on these farms become resistant to their antibiotics and humans can become infected through meat consumption.

Although buying and eating humanely raised meat, poultry, and eggs is better for both an individual’s health, as well as the planet’s, it does help the environment to go vegetarian—or completely vegan—one day or more a week. The resources it takes to produce even humanely raised, organic meat is still much higher than what it takes to produce organic vegetables, grains, and legumes.

Below are some eye-opening facts from an article in Alternet by Kathy Freston, who has written extensively on the subject.

If the population went vegetarian for just one day, the U.S. would save:

100 billion gallons of water

33 tons of antibiotics

70 million gallons of gas

Freston also notes that Environmental Defense says that if every person in the U.S. skipped just one meal of chicken a week by substituting vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off our roads!

Eating less meat is also good for our health. In an article titled “Why Go Veg,” in Vegetarian Times, the author notes that scientific research has demonstrated many health benefits of a plant-based diet. Among them are: reduced risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, stomach, lung, and esophageal cancer.

Even if you’re a meat lover, going vegetarian may be a lot easier and tastier than you’d imagine. It also will save you money. (According to Vegetarian Times, if the average American went vegetarian for a year, that person would save about $4,000 annually.) Research charts on how to combine foods to make a complete protein, and you will find many mouth-watering alternatives. Here are some whole-protein dishes and snacks to enjoy on your meatless Mondays: vegetarian chili with cornbread, lentils and rice, a salad that includes asparagus and mushrooms, and handful of sunflower seeds and pistachios.

It’s that easy! And once you commit to a vegetarian diet one day a week, perhaps you’ll become motivated to incorporate this healthy-for-the planet way of eating on a more consistent basis.

Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her writing has appeared in literary journals as well as print and online newspapers and magazines. Her award-winning debut novel, The Grace of Crows, is available in paperback, e-book and audible editions. She is currently finishing her second novel.