Berkeley High School (BHS) has countless different clubs, and one that has steadily gained recent attention since the beginning of the school year is the Meatless Monday Campaign. Sophomore Zeia Backrach created the club last spring, when she, like many other teenagers, wanted to find a way to help the planet and reduce her carbon footprint.
“[The] media is basically telling us that we can either sit back, and watch institutions fail at solving climate change, or try to take really insignificant actions every day to reduce our personal carbon footprint,” said Backrach. “So I was looking for something as a kind of middle ground.”
She found that an impactful and easy way an individual can help lower their carbon footprint was by changing what they ate.
“Diet change for climate change [is] essentially changing the diet, or changing what you eat. For example, reducing the amount of meat that you eat to help mitigate climate change,” Backrach said. “I was just really blown away by this concept, especially finding out that animal agriculture produces equivalent, if not more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector.”
According to a study by National Geographic, it takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef compared to the 11 gallons required to make a slice of bread. Carbon Brief, a United Kingdom-based website covering the latest climate change discoveries, reported that meat and dairy are responsible for 14.5 percent of greenhouse emissions.
Ysabel Chu, a BHS freshman, joined the Meatless Monday Campaign club to find like-minded people who were also passionate about the environment, and said that each student can help through their consumption.
“Sometimes people think you have to … either be completely vegan or nothing at all. But that’s really tough,” said Chu. She added that she had been a vegetarian for the past year, and that it has felt worth it to her despite being a challenge. Chu hopes to become vegan in the future.
The Meatless Monday Campaign’s goal is to make it easy for BHS students to make a positive impact on climate change.
“If you cut meat out of your diet just one day a week, that would be saving the equivalent of over 300 miles driven in it,” said Arya Winer-Fashing, who is part of the Meatless Monday Campaign committee and has been a vegetarian for the past 5 years. “If you cut meat out of your diet once a week for a year, that is the equivalent of like over 300 miles driven on and that’s saving a lot. So if every person contributes just a little bit, we could cut down on carbon emissions by 10 or even 20 percent depending on how many people participate.”
The Meatless Monday Campaign has also tried to make the BHS cafeteria food more appealing to vegetarians and vegans. Although there have been more vegetarian options, vegan options are still lacking. “We’re trying to get the cafeteria to offer more plant-based and vegetarian options that are appealing to our student body, as well as more options that are inclusive to the many, many dietary restrictions that we have at BHS just to improve food offerings in general,” Backrach said.
Winer-Fashing closed with the encouragement that “every single person can make a difference.”