Healthier choices for a healthier environment

By: Noelle Harada, Columnist

April 22 is Earth Day. Celebrate Earth Day by evaluating what you are eating, because what you eat has a major impact on the environment.

A simple way to help save the environment is to go meatless at least once a week. Meatless Monday is an initiative to help protect the planet that started during World Wars I and II to reduce consumption of key staples like meat in order to aid the war effort. The initiative was reintroduced in 2003 by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future.

One of the many benefits of cutting back on meat is improving your overall diet. Eating beans, peas, fruits, vegetables and whole grains in place of meat lowers your intake of saturated and total fat, and also increases your intake of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Taking this step will reduce your risk for heart disease and cancer and may also help with weight control.

Eating less meat will also help if you need to watch your pennies—alternative sources of protein like beans are significantly cheaper than meat.

Additionally, going meatless reduces your carbon footprint, lowers water usage and reduces fuel dependence.

It takes an estimated 1800-2500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, while it only takes 220 gallons of water to produce a pound of soy tofu in California.

Eating one less burger a week over the course of a year is equivalent to taking your car off the road for 320 miles, and could save enough energy to charge an iPhone for 4.5 years. If the world gave up meat once per week by participating in Meatless Monday, it would have the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions as taking 240 million cars off the road.

And don’t worry about not getting in enough protein. You can get protein from a variety of plant-based sources including grains like quinoa, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, peas, sunflower seeds, nuts and even vegetables like broccoli.

Towson dining has many meatless options on campus. Here are a few:

Patuxent room has whole wheat pasta, a fresh salad bar and a fruit and yogurt bar. Susquehanna offers vegetable sushi rolls with brown rice, edamame, made to order salads, a fruit and yogurt bar, veggie burgers, fruit and vegetable smoothies and a brown rice-and-veggie burger called the Green Burger.

Glen Dining Hall has a fresh salad bar and the T-Vegan station, while the Pure Café offers a grilled vegetable sandwich and a vegan Caesar salad. Even Paws has salads, veggie burgers, fruit, oatmeal and yogurt.

Towson’s T-Veggie program allows you to make any meat offering vegetarian. With T-Veggie, you can substitute any meat option for a soy-based chicken or beef alternative.

There’s also a T-Veggie Your Way Cookbook. This cookbook holds recipes that can be made in Glen Marketplace, Newell Dining Hall and West Village Commons. The recipes allow students to create their own meals using different ingredients, sauces, herbs, spices and cooking methods. The cookbook is available in each dining hall and can also be found at dining.towson.edu.

Trying to minimize your carbon footprint shouldn’t be just a one-day event. It should be a lifelong effort to help protect the environment.

Visit www.MeatlessMonday.com or www.earthday.org for more information, or contact campus dietician Kerry Ballek at kballek@towson.edu.

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