Web Exclusive

Meatless Monday Case Study Shows Efficacy for Meeting Sustainability Goals

How can a community and a group of volunteers encourage fellow citizens to shift to a climate-friendly diet? A new case study shows that a Meatless Monday campaign implemented as part of the Bedford 2020 climate initiative resulted in a significant reduction in consumer meat consumption and an increase in the awareness of the link between food choices and climate. 

The case study was written by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. The researchers examined the attitudes, behaviors, and food choices of residents after participating in the Bedford 2020 Meatless Monday Campaign. The campaign’s volunteers engaged the community across many different sectors, including restaurants, businesses, and schools. 

Bedford 2020 was formed in 2010 in Bedford, New York, with the mission of lowering municipal greenhouse gases through a communitywide climate action plan. After success across several environmental domains, the leaders added eating less meat to their strategy for climate change mitigation. Meat consumption is one of the major drivers of climate change, and the Bedford 2020 leadership identified Meatless Monday as an easy first step for residents to become more familiar with delicious plant-based options, both while cooking at home and eating out. Bedford 2020 collaborated with CLF and the Meatless Monday campaign to develop promotional materials and background information based on the latest science. 

In 2018, more than 300 households in the Bedford area pledged to participate in a 12-week Bedford 2020 Meatless Monday challenge. CLF researchers conducted three surveys—before, at the conclusion of the campaign, and six months after the challenge—to assess how residents responded to the campaign and whether habits had changed as a result. The survey conducted immediately after the challenge showed that 74% of respondents said the challenge raised their awareness about the connections between food choice and climate impact.  

Key findings of the case study included the following: 

• Over the nine months in which the surveys were conducted, there were significant reductions in the frequency at which households consumed meat, remaining even after the conclusion of the 12-week campaign. 
• Six months after the program, 90% of those surveyed indicated they were likely to continue reducing their meat consumption at least once per week moving forward. 
• After six months, 84% of survey respondents described eating more meatless dishes, and 62% described members of their household eating less meat. 

These changes in behavior coincided with significant increases in residents’ perceived abilities to prepare and order plant-based options, which often were attributed to elevated concerns over climate change, improvements in their own proficiencies as cooks, as well as the changes to their local food environment that made plant-based options more enticing and readily available. 

Midge Lorio, executive director of Bedford 2030 (Bedford 2020’s updated iteration), says, “Our Meatless Monday challenge helped the community make a meaningful connection between food choice and carbon footprint. It continues to inspire behavior change, and provides a strong platform for our organization, now relaunched as Bedford 2030, to create new community programs around sustainable, climate-friendly food practices.” 

Meatless Monday Campaign Director Dana Smith says, “Meatless Monday has long been recognized as a great first step individuals and communities can take to improve their overall health and the health of our planet. This Bedford 2020 case study highlights the lasting impacts that community-based sustainability initiatives could have on residents’ dietary behaviors.”

Inspire Plant-Based Eating in Your City with Meatless Monday” is a new free online guide filled with examples of how communities in the United States and around the world have used Meatless Monday to promote healthful, sustainable plant-based eating.

— Source: The Monday Campaigns