Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I recently had a conversation with a radical friend of mine. He's the type of guy who says things like, "It isn't a question of if we run out of water, Ilana, but when we run out of it." He took issue with the Green Movement, specifically with what he saw as a merger of environmentalism and consumerism, Green Chic. I argued that whatever someone's motivations for driving a Prius or using recycled paper products, it decreases our national footprint, a good thing for everyone. A government, civil or social, cannot hope to control the souls of its constituents. The best it can do is attempt to guide their actions, by doling out praise for those actions that are deemed good for society, (You have solar panels on your roof? Hoorah for you!) or punishment for those that are deemed bad (Litterer? Off with your head!).

My friend's argument was that there is a kind of back-patting that accompanies some of this visible environmental friendliness that does not translate to any actual net gain for the earth. Powering your home with wind power, for example, means little if you are jetting off to the Bahamas or to Europe or to Bora Bora four times a year. Still, I argued, better than nothing. Baby steps, said I.

Then I saw this little fact from the PBJ campaign:

Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

Now, I don't drive a Prius, I drive a bike, so I could easily be self-righteous about carbon emissions. But I can do more than my part, can't I? In fact, we will all have to do more than our share of habit shifting if we have any hope of effecting any actual change. We can't afford to rest on our meager laurels.

So I am pledging, here and now, to have a vegan lunch every weekday. I will do my very best to avoid all animal products, and in so doing, I hope to reduce my carbon footprint by 12.5 pounds a week. Wow. I will feel so good about myself after a few weeks, I might feel compelled to reward myself with a tropical vacation!

Just kidding.

Anyone else up for this challenge?


alicia said...

I am sad about the cheese. Why the cheese? Is it because of cow farts? What about goat cheese from free-range Nigerian Dwarf Goats? Do you think that counts?

ilana manaster said...

And what about chocolate. That's sad too, no?

Bernard Brown said...

Rock on with the Challenge and thanks for the post. We did a PB&J Challenge as a fundraiser - I competed against another PB&J Campaigner to see how long we could subsist on just PB&Js.

As for the cheese, almost anything coming from a cow or other ruminant (animals that process food in four-chambered stomachs like cows) is pretty resource intensive, more so than anything coming from animals like chickens and pigs that use stomachs more like ours.

Chocolate is vegan, but it ends up being pretty resource intensive too.

Still, one lunch a week isn't too hard. Falafel is great, and I've never had any temptation to put cheese or chocolate on falafel.

Bernard Brown
PB&J Campaign Director

ilana manaster said...

Thanks for the comment, Bernard! Chocolate, vegan, right. I am a little vegan dumb. I had a lovely meal today from the salad bar at Life Thyme near the W4 stop in Manhattan. Tomorrow I think I will pack a PBJ. Who else is with me? What are you having for lunch?

Jordana Cohen said...

I would like someone to explain to me (Ilana, Bernard, etc.) exactly how a meat-based lunch adds up to a higher carbon footprint than peanut butter, jelly and bread. I am incredibly skeptical-- it kinda sounds like a veil for a vegan agenda.

This is me being serious, for once, actually.

ilana manaster said...

The PB&J campaign's website is a wealth of information: http://www.pbjcampaign.org/how

Basically animals products are the result of converting plants into food. Eating plants is a more efficient way to get nutrients than by eating animals that eat the plants. That makes sense, right? Check out the website. It's more environmental than it is vegan.

Emily said...

Balk, you are so great. I eat tons of dairy for lunch - I'm heading to TJs right now for some falafel mix... or do I have to make it from scratch?