Next month, NC State Sustainability Stewards will host Meatless March, a month of events created to bring awareness to animal agriculture’s effects on sustainability and to advocate for plant-forward diets.
The stewards is a student organization partnered with the NC State Sustainability Office to help the University achieve its sustainability goals.
Sarah Austin, a third-year studying plant biology, serves as a team lead for the Sustainability Stewards waste reduction group and is a co-founder of Meatless March. She emphasized that Meatless March is more about educating students on how their eating habits can impact the environment, rather than shaming those who eat meat.
“The main goal is to promote a vegetarian/vegan diet in order to help students lower their carbon footprint and understand their relationship with the environment,” Austin said.
While the schedule is still unconfirmed, the Sustainability Stewards plan to have an array of interactive, virtual events that students can participate in during Meatless March. According to Austin, one of the biggest events during the month will occur March 25* and will be a panel of various entrepreneurs and women in the field of sustainability. The panel, tentatively called Plant Powered Women, will feature speakers involved in sustainable agriculture, plant-based companies, as well as authors.
Another event will include a collaboration with the University Activities Board to show a screening of the documentary “Cowspiracy” on March 9 and 10, Austin said. On March 11, there will be a facilitated conversation about the movie, and students who attend will automatically be entered into a raffle to win a gift card to Fiction Kitchen, or possibly another vegan restaurant in Raleigh.
Juhi Dattani, a third-year studying agroecology, and a member of the stewards, said that vegetarian and vegan recipes will be available on the stewards’ Instagram account.
“We’re thinking about recipes you can make that are on budgets because that is really hard to figure out on your own, and it’s really intimidating,” Dattani said. “Being a college student, our lifestyles are so different; to make time for cooking is hard to even think about.”
According to Austin, there has been interest from students about more meatless food options at NC State Dining.
“My freshman year, when we first started the project, we sent out a poll, and of the 84 people who responded, 95% of them said they would like to see more vegan and vegetarian options in the dining halls,” Austin said. “That was really promising. It seems like people are interested.”
Dattani said she wanted to stress the difference between the terms plant-based and plant-forward, as the stewards are trying to promote plant-forward diets.
“When we think of plant-based food, that diet term was coined by this dietician who argued that being plant-based is healthier for you,” Dattani said. “When we think of this new term plant-forward, it emphasizes more conscientious incorporation of fruits and veggies, instead of your foundation being just plants. We want this to be something that is not an all-or-nothing mindset.”
Regardless of a person’s reason for adopting a plant-forward diet, Austin said she would urge students to consider the three pillars of sustainability — social, environmental and economic — because animal agriculture affects all three of these aspects of human civilization.
“Animal agriculture affects the environment, it affects indigenous people, rural communities in America,” Austin said. “It produces large amounts of methane and is actually responsible for 11-15% of greenhouse gas emissions. It really is taking over our land and also hurting everything that once was on that land.”
The Sustainability Stewards have not yet finalized the complete schedule for Meatless March, and students can find more information about Meatless March when it becomes available on the NC State Sustainability Stewards’ Instagram page.
*Edited for accuracy.