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Cow Free Mondays
By Marcia Goodstein, COO and President, Idealab
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Want to help save two million gallons of water? Without too much sacrifice? Let me explain.

Here at Idealab, we've been pursuing a "Practically GREEN" approach to helping our environment: The Alternative Transportation Program, daylighting solar tubes, water bottles, and silverware at lunch are a few of the efforts we've implemented. Recently, we introduced one more program that we believe can have a far greater impact: the Cow Free Monday Challenge. No, you don't need to become a vegetarian. (I'm one of the biggest carnivores of all time.) We'd like to invite you and your family, friends, and everyone you know, to join us in the Challenge, an initiative that doesn't ask for all that much, and allows us to make a sizable impact on our environment, and maybe even our health.

First, some startling facts:

- The United Nations estimates that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate climate change. About 40 calories of fossil fuel of energy go into every calorie of feed lot beef in the U.S., compared to 2.2 calories of fossil fuel for plant-based protein. Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57. (Scientific American - How Meat Contributes to Global Warming)

- Between 1,800-2,500 gallons of water go into producing a single pound of beef. You would save more water by not eating a pound of beef than you would by not showering...for six months! ( - Meat Production Wastes Natural Resources)

- Americans appear to be eating twice as much red meat as we should, which could be contributing to preventable forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. (Meat Eater's Guide - Reduce your impact. Improve your health)

- 80% of antibiotics sold in the US are used in livestock, which could be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. (Real Food Blog - 80% of Antibiotics Used In US Are Fed To Livestock)

But it's not all dire. There actually is some good news: For the first time since the 1980s, the US had declining CO2 emissions in 2010 and 2011. (The Guardian - World carbon dioxide emissions data by country)

So we wondered: What can we do to help keep this trend going in the right direction?


Because cows (and sheep) contribute the biggest greenhouse gas emissions during production (see graphic), eliminating cow products for even just one day a week can have a significant impact on our carbon footprint - and help us to achieve our two million-gallon goal in just six months.

Here's how it works:

- On Cow Free Monday, all participants avoid eating food products that come from a cow. There's a national movement called Meatless Monday but they go whole hog - so to speak - and require a full vegetarian diet on Mondays; we're doing our own modified version, which involves only avoiding the cow: beef, cow cheeses, milk, butter, etc. In Idealab's version of Meatless Monday, we'll still be able to eat white meat - chicken, turkey, fish, and pig products.

- To make it easier for Idealabbers, every Monday we provide dairy-free (and free) breakfast and cow free ($6) lunch; all they need to do is remember to have a cow free dinner.

- You will receive a weekly email that shows your individual contribution to our overall effort as well as our joint progress towards our goal. (Check it out when you're done here to see what we've done so far.)

- Every Tuesday we send an email asking if you participated in the challenge the previous day.

- Choose to participate some weeks and not others. Choose to skip just meat, just cheese, just milk or some combination of the three. If family members or friends wish to join, please invite them to participate, too. (Unfortunately, if you're a vegetarian, it doesn't make sense for you to sign up; we get an accurate account of our progress only if you stop doing something you were doing.)

We did the math and calculated that if 200 people participate in Cow Free Monday - Idealabbers, family, friends and others - we could save two million gallons of water in only six months.

Interested? If so, then please click here - - to sign up. If a devout carnivore like I can do it, anyone can.

We hope you join us. We appreciate all you already do to help keep our planet healthy for generations to come. Who knows? If we someday got everyone in the country to skip meat or cheese just one day per week, that would save an astonishing 7.4 trillion gallons of water. What an impact we would make! (I mean...what an impact we wouldn't make!)

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