#PlantBasedPlanet at The Students’ Union at UWE
It is well understood that meat and dairy production come along with a high carbon footprint. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the livestock sector is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. In response to these shocking statistics, students on The Sustainability Committee at The Students’ Union at the University of the West of England decided to do something about it. Between January 2019 to March 2019, the committee researched, planned, organised, and ran our campaign called #PlantBasedPlanet all whilst engaging fellow students and embedding changes across the university, starting right at The Students’ Union
The University of the West of England is home to nearly 30,000 students that represent an international community of students from over 140 students worldwide. When a sample of students were asked if they would participate in a Meat Free Monday on campus to reduce carbon impact, 90% of students responded positively. Of those that responded, 71% said that price plays a factor in what they decide to eat. With this data, the Sustainability Committee decided to collaborate with The Students’ Union Bar by offering some delicious vegan and vegetarian menu items at half priced at part of the #PlantBasedPlanet campaign.
“The world is becoming increasingly aware of the ongoing climate crisis. Changing to a plant-based diet is the single biggest consumer action you can make to reduce your carbon footprint. Aside from this fact, it has been proved that those who follow a plant-based diet live healthier, richer lives – whilst reducing the suffering of animals. Given these facts, Meat Free Monday is a no-brainer.”
-Ciaran Gutteridge, Sustainability Officer at The Students’ Union at UWE
At The Students’ Union Bar at UWE Frenchay, meat free options are quite prominent on the menu at nearly 60% of what’s available. Our students selected their favourites and The Students’ Union bar offered them at half price as a part of Meat Free Monday – students saved on average £2.20 per meal as a part of our campaign
Meat Free Monday is a great way to highlight the innumerable of benefits that come from a plant-based diet. Whether you are a dedicated environmentalist or someone who is trying to eat a little bit healthier, you are making a difference by choosing plant-based products over animal products. We have the power to minimise our impacts on the environment - small actions have the potential to evolve into large movements.
In addition to Meatless Monday, the #PlantBasedPlanet campaign ran other events such as a well-attended “Pub Quiz for the Planet” (did you know that ½ cup tofu has more calcium per serving than ½ cup milk?!), a debate stacking up a plant-based diet against a meat-based diet, a “VegWay” sandwich giveaway, and a “Lock-In” featuring popular local ethical rappers. The Student Sustainability Committee was able to engage more than 650 students over the duration of their campaign and inspired change on campus.
“Our ‘VegWay’ sandwich station was a great way to engage with students to talk about the carbon impact of meat and dairy consumption, and it showcased how tasty and filling veggie and vegan sandwiches and cakes are, as part of a climate-friendly plant-based diet. We took donations towards The Converging World charity that invests in reforestation to off-set global carbon impacts.”
-Karen Simpson, Water Lead, Department of Geography and Environmental Management (PHD)
The Meat Free Monday promotion as a part of The Student Sustainability Committee’s #PlantBasedPlanet is only the start at The Students’ Union at UWE. The overwhelming enthusiasm for vegan and vegetarian foods on campus have us thinking twice about what we are offering, for how much, and how often.
Keep up with our work on Meat Free Monday here: https://www.thestudentsunion.co.uk/community/green-team/projects/plantbasedplanet/
Want to try out meat free meals but don't know how? Here are some quick tips:
Start your Mornings with Overnight Oats
Oatmeal is very cheap, especially in bulk, and milk alternatives like almond milk is high in protein. Just add half a cup of fruit along with a teaspoon of cinnamon to this mix and soak overnight for a delicious and nutritious way to start your day!
Don’t Rely on Prepacked Meat Replacements
Eating vegetarian is cheap unless you lean heavily on packaged meat replacements (not to mention that these replacements are full of preservatives!). Make fresh food and if you really want to “recreate” meat, do it yourself with tofu, jackfruit, or mushrooms.
Get Creative with Sauces
Add more flavour to your dishes by marinating your vegetables or protein in a sauce – my personal favourites are like teriyaki, peanut, or orange sauces, yum!
Don’t Just Cut Back, Add to Your Diet
Eating no meat one day a week is not only about subtracting from your diet, but adding to it! Eating more whole grains, beans and lentils and vegetables on your meatless day offers many health benefits.
Try cooking other types of cuisines, which might lean less on animal-based protein.
Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, South American - so many cultures have AMAZING recipes with zero meat or dairy that you don't even have to 'convert' to vegan or vegetarian.
This article supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals