Do Meat-Free Mondays really make a difference?

Meat-free Mondays is a campaign that aims to highlight the environmental impact of meat consumption and animal agriculture, but does it actually make a difference?

If you’ve never heard of ‘Meat-Free Mondays’, the campaign first launched by the famous McCartney family all the way back in 2009, then you may want to get clued up – especially if you’re concerned about the way meat products are produced and sold.

It’s exactly what it sounds like – an initiative encouraging the public to avoid meat products for at least one full day each week. The project has been endorsed by big names including Paul Rudd, Emma Stone, and Ringo Starr, and has been adopted by many businesses and academic institutions around the world.

‘Meat-Free Mondays’ is primarily focused on combating climate change, saving water, and protecting animals, and boasts numerous health benefits for those that decide to temporarily ditch meat.

All that’s well and good, of course, but does it actually work?

A useful starting point to determine the legitimate effect of ditching meat is to survey university campuses, particularly as these house the ideal Gen Z demographic for the ‘Meat-Free Mondays’ campaign.

Student populations vary hugely across the country, so for this case study, let’s look at two different universities and calculate the net gains from adopting an actual meat free Monday.

LSE, for example, has a relatively small student population and accepts 1,600 freshers every year, whereas Exeter University has a much larger first year population about 6,400.

If we assume that half of these first years will be eating at their university canteens, we get 800 students at LSE and 3,200 at Exeter who will be participating in their canteen’s meat-free Monday.

Now for some maths. Thanks to Meat-Free Mondays impact calculator, one year of 800 students participating in Meat-Free Monday saves:

  • Over 447,000 bathtubs of water
  • Over 1000 tennis courts of rainforest (80% of deforested areas goes towards animal pasturing)
  • Over 150,000 miles worth of greenhouse gas

To put that into perspective, you’d have to travel 24,000 miles to travel the entire globe, meaning LSE’s students would save this amount of greenhouse gas six times over!

With larger student populations these numbers multiply. Students at Exeter could save over 1.5 million bathtubs of water, 4000 tennis courts, and over 600,000 miles of greenhouse gas which is – you guessed it – the equivalent of 25 times around Earth. Not bad, eh?

If you’re still not convinced, studies have shown introducing a meat-free day into your diet can decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and both breast and lung cancer.

At least 140 universities, schools, and colleges have already moved to Meat-Free Mondays, with many more sampling partial versions which offer vegetarian alternatives to the usual animal-based options.

To get your institution involved you can get in touch with your Environmental Rep or Student Union. The Meat-Free Monday website has tons of resources, facts and stories for you to use too, should you want to jump in.

Plus, if you’re interested in more of the maths, head to the Darwin Challenge to see how it’s all worked out.


This article was originally written by Georgie Morley. ‘I’m Georgie and I’m currently studying History at the University of Oxford. I am passionate about social change, particularly intersectional feminism and climate justice, and I enjoy engaging in these issues through volunteering, campaigning and writing.’ Visit her LinkedIn and view her Twitter.


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