An eco-friendly alternative: Meatless Mondays

Kristen Tam has been trying to help the environment since she learned about the impact the agricultural industry has on the environment during her sophomore year. This knowledge, fueled by her AP environmental science class, lit a spark in her that is still burning. Now, the co-president of the ECO club and activist for waste reduction on campus has a new project: Meatless Mondays.

This idea, serving a meat-free school lunch every other Monday, is something Tam and the Green Menu Day Team has been working on since last spring. The goal of meatless Mondays is simple: it’s to lessen Lowell’s environmental impact by reducing the amount of meat consumed by Lowell students.

The project began when Tam was on the San Francisco Youth Commission (SFYC). She began looking into environmental policies that our school district and city could implement in order to become more sustainable. She discovered a program that the Los Angeles School District implemented in 2012 which had schools serve vegetarian meals every Monday.

Tam decided she wanted to start the program in high schools in San Francisco and contacted the Student Advisory Committee (SAC). A similar resolution had been presented by a group of Girl Scouts the year before, but they never followed through with enacting it. The resolution was up for grabs and Tam took it over. The ECO Club edited the resolution and sent out a student survey to see who would be willing to participate. According to Tam, the survey had 70 percent positive results from students. However, the SAC felt the need for more data. Most of the feedback has been form Lowell students and not the whole district which was not a broad enough pool. “they [the SAC] said let’s table this and then survey everyone, once we get the feedback move on from there,” Tam said.

Climate change is real and, as the UN reported, we have less than 12 years to greatly reduce our carbon emissions

— Kristen Tam

Even when implemented, the plan will probably not be as environmentally friendly as Tam wanted. According to Lauren Heumann, Tam’s contact in Student Nutrition, students would not eat a fully vegetarian meal. “They want try to highlight a vegetarian meal and have sustainable meat option, too,” Tam said. Through the survey she recently released, she wants to prove that students would chose the vegetarian meal.

The impact of Meatless Mondays will be significant, according to Tam. As calculated by the Green Menu Day team, one day of this project will save 468,750 gallons of water. “Climate change is real and, as the UN reported, we have less than 12 years to greatly reduce our carbon emissions,” Tam said. Tackling something as small as reducing a little bit of the meat you eat makes a big difference.”

There is room for Lowell to grow in the amount of vegetarian meals served and Meatless Monday is hoping to help change that. Right now, only 20 to 30 percent of all school lunches eaten at Lowell are vegetarian, according to the Green Menu Day team. “People are just used to eating meals with meat all of the time, it’s what we have grown up with,” Tam said. “In order for people to want to eat a vegetarian meal there needs to be a situation where they try that vegetarian meal.”    

The Meatless Mondays campaign is just about to get started here at Lowell, and Tam is optimistic about its success. She feels that if people keep an open mind, our society can move forward to becoming more green; all they need is a push in the right direction. “People see the need to protect our world and want to do the right thing, they just want to make sure that it is easy and convenient,” Tam said.