Tony Heesterman, the University of Victoria's executive chef, has zero patience for students who complain about campus-wide meatless Mondays.
The university recently decided to join the global trend where people and institutions forgo meat on Mondays to help tackle the climate crisis. Meat and dairy are responsible for about 14 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. Some students had negative feedback about the initiative, but Heesterman wasn't deterred.
"I mean, you're talking one day out of the week," he said. Instead of meat on campus menus, students get nachos that come with homemade vegan "cheese," burgers built from beans, and butter chicken with zero poultry. Contrast that with the cost of climate change, and he said it was clear to him that forgoing meat was worth it "to make the world for you younger people and your kids last."
Initiatives like meatless Mondays could be key in turning the corner on climate change, researchers suggest. A team based out of the University of Exeter in the U.K. recently found that encouraging institutions like universities to use less meat and changing the type of fertilizers farmers use to grow crops could go a long way to making our economy more sustainable. Their report is not peer-reviewed.
"The climate community has long talked about tipping points in the biophysical system … where if you reach a certain point, you would see more unstoppable behaviour," explained Kelly Levin, chief of data, science and systems change for the Bezos Earth Fund, which collaborated with the University of Exeter research team.
"There's also been complementary research (on) so-called socio-economic tipping points, (which are) movements where we see much more exponential change than analysts predicted." The iPhone's astronomical rise or the rapid, widespread adoption of automobiles are good examples, she said.
The researchers found that boosting the number of institutions serving and researching plant-based proteins and replacing conventional nitrogen fertilizers with green alternatives would have an outsized impact on reducing emissions. That's because those changes would help fund the infrastructure or changes needed to make other sectors more sustainable, Levin explained.
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Nitrogen fertilizer production is responsible for about 0.7 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Most production relies heavily on natural gas, which is converted into hydrogen and then ammonia before being transformed into fertilizers.
The researchers found that replacing ammonia produced using fossil fuels with so-called "green" ammonia (produced using renewable energy) could reduce emissions from fertilizer. Green ammonia is more expensive than its fossil fuel-derived counterpart, as is the green hydrogen used to produce it. About 99 per cent of all hydrogen used today is made from fossil fuels.
The idea is that if fertilizer production relied on green ammonia, it could drive down the cost of green hydrogen production. This, in turn, would help bolster the use of green ammonia in shipping and green hydrogen in steel production, both carbon-intensive industries difficult to untangle from fossil fuels.
Paul Martin, the co-founder of the U.K.-based Hydrogen Science Coalition and a hydrogen researcher who was not involved in the study, noted the "replacement of existing uses of hydrogen is the highest priority" for using green hydrogen. The ammonia used in fertilizers is a good candidate because its use can't be avoided, he said.
As for plant-based proteins, the study found that efforts by institutions like UVic to make meat alternatives more widespread could help these products replace up to 30 per cent of the planet's market for meat by 2035. Institutions have a unique role because they feed so many people simultaneously and, in the case of governments or universities, can sometimes also support research into new foods.
Beyond helping to reduce the amount of meat people consume, a major shift to plant-based proteins could reduce the pressure to convert forests into ranchland or fields. Forests are carbon sinks vital to tackling the climate and biodiversity crises but are regularly cut down by agribusinesses looking to expand their agricultural land.
Yet, Levin acknowledged that plant-based proteins still face a huge challenge if they are to become widespread: people's palates.
"Alternative proteins are on track to reach cost parity, but it's unclear whether social norms are going to lead to a very widespread adoption," she said. Changes to those social norms around plant-based proteins need to be "nurtured" by supportive policies and initiatives by governments and institutions like UVic.
For Heesterman, tough love and tasty food are the keys to making those changes happen. While some students are unhappy, most either don't notice or appreciate efforts to give plants a priority on the menu — a testament to his team's culinary innovation.
"It's not the easiest thing, but it definitely is working towards the ultimate goal in the longevity of the planet," he said.
Kudos to the chef!
Kudos to the chef!
A student-led counter could be to hand out "degree" certificates to their entitled peers:
Bbmwc and Mbmwc.
Bitching, moaning, whining and complaining.
As a vegetarian for over half
As a vegetarian for over half a century, and near vegan for most of that time (allergies!!) I've never been quite able to wrap my head around the idea that vegetarian food should look like meat. One of the most revolting food images ever has to be of tofu formed to look like a boneless, pressed bird.
With all the highly nutritious and utterly delicious possibilities for vegie-burgers presented by beans, grains, nuts/seeds and veg, I don't get the charm of "tastes like meat." Most of the vegan cheeze and fermented-fake-dairy products (not all: won't name brands) taste absolutely revolting ... and don't have that great a nutritient profile, either. And ppl have been eating cornstarch and soy protein filled pre-prepared foods for so long, how would they even know.
It's not hard to find a nutrient analyzer online.
People wanting to improve their carbon footprint might be curious, too, about the carbon footprint of those highly processed "alternatives." Processing uses energy.
And when making dietary changes, it's always a good idea to use an on-line or at-home nutrient calculator to be sure of meeting at least the RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) of "complete" or "complemented" protein, lest some essential amino acids be in short supply, along with all the usual vitamins and minerals ... and to be sure that sugars, salt, "bad" fats and simple starches are appropriately limited.
In middle school our kids had a nutrition unit, and an assignment to track several days' food intake, then analyze its nutritional adequacy.
It's not all that hard to do: most people have no problem consuming adequate amounts of grains ... and beyond that, it's a matter of beans-and-greens, with adequate numbers of servings of veg and fresh fruit. Vegans always need to take B12 -- and everyone in our latitudes needs Vit D3 especially in winter -- and Vit K2 is a very good idea. And some people need to supplement EFAs (essential fatty acids, which humans can't synthesize) -- those whose ancestral diets included cold-water fish, flax and/or hemp seed/oil sources of EFAs might find evolution didn't select their gene-stock to require smaller dietary amounts).
"As a vegetarian for over
"As a vegetarian for over half a century..." Same here. And three cheers to ALL of the above comments by f nordvie.
Fake meat products appear to be designed to appeal to current or recent meat-eaters, by imitating meat in taste and texture. But if that's the rationale, I don't think it works. My omnivore friends and family never eat such products themselves; rather, they buy them for *me* to eat, in the peculiar hope that I will therefore want to sit at a table for a holiday dinner with them, with an obscenely large roasted animal as the almost inevitable centrepiece. "Oh, he's just being antisocial," they conclude.
If anyone actually asks me why I'm vegetarian, I really do try to explain it in the most concise and inoffensive and non-judgemental manner as I can. But that's always the end of the conversation. Most people simply do not want to think about how and where their food actually comes from in general, and their animal protein in particular.
Heatless Thursdays next.
Heatless Thursdays next. Just wear a sweater.
Bullshit greenwashing. The University is still heated with gas.
It's not greenwashing if
It's not greenwashing if Meatless Monday is actually meatless.
I agree with the university
I agree with the university decision but, research made in collaboration with the "Bezos Earth Fund", that 's totally greenwashing.