How we eliminated the carbon footprint of eight individuals in two hours

Today students at Exeter college passed a motion after a two-hour debate to support a meatless day per week in the college hall. Their main argument stems from the UN’s Livestock’s Long Shadow Report. The 400-page report is an in-depth assessment of the significant impact of world’s livestock on the environment. The meat industry already contributes to 20% of global emissions, and meat consumption is projected to double by 2050.

According to the college chef, Exeter purchases (approximately) the following quantities of meat each week: 150 kg beef, 150 kg diced chicken, 600 chicken breasts, 100 kg lamb, 60 kg pork, 30 kg bacon, 10 kg sausages. This translates to 16.4 tons of CO2e (see footnote) every week of which red meat alone contributes 12.8 tons. Hall runs at full capacity for 30 weeks each year and at 30% capacity for 15 weeks, with a staggering carbon footprint of 566 tons of CO2e per year. A meatless day each week will reduce that consumption by about 15%, or 85 tons CO2e. This is equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of eight people in the UK. Furthermore, a meatless day in hall will not only effect a reduction in our carbon footprint but also our water footprint. (More on that here). The UN report on livestock also discusses the impact of meat on water depletion, water pollution, and biodiversity, all of which a meat-free day will affect positively.

Decreasing college spending on meat will mean lowering of prices, essentially benefiting students’ bank accounts whilst simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint. This point is worth dwelling on: with hybrid cars, energy-efficient homes, and so other many carbon-reduction options far out of the financial reach of students, it’s nice to have an option that actually saves money while saving the environment.

The international meatless Monday campaign & the supporting UK chapter have gathered critical support in the recent years. With three other Oxford colleges already passing a similar motion, this idea has the potential of gaining a wider following not only in Oxford but also in other universities.

^ CO2e stands for carbon dioxide equivalent, which is an internationally accepted measure that expresses the amount of global warming from greenhouse gases. CO2e is not limited to carbon dioxide but includes other gases like Methane & Nitrous oxide.

* Calculations of the carbon footprint have been done based on reports published by New Scientistthe Guardian.

~ by Akshat Rathi on January 31, 2010.

One Response to “How we eliminated the carbon footprint of eight individuals in two hours”

  1. […] case in point: My college recently declared Thursdays as a meat-free day in hall. The benefits were that it would cause a surprisingly significant decrease in the college’s […]

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