By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
With January safely in the rear-view mirror, perhaps it's not too risky to mention how those New Year's resolutions are going. I'm referring to the sustainability actions I committed to at the end of last year, along with my fellow Sustainable Newton board members.
For me, the focus was reducing my carbon footprint by driving more fuel-efficiently and adopting a plant-based diet one day a week. Overall, I'm happy with results so far, but neither resolution has been without challenges. (As it should be for any changes worth making.)
Today is my fifth "Meatless Monday." I was traveling in early January, so I elected to start my new regimen on Monday, January 13. But, since then, I've opened every week with a vegetarian (but not always vegan) diet. I'm allowing myself eggs and dairy products, but no beef, poultry, seafood, or other meats.
I'm definitely not suffering; I've enjoyed some tasty meals (while doing something to address what the folks at Project Drawdown rank as the fourth most important carbon reduction action we can take). And, I feel better. But, what's complicated things was starting back on Weight Watchers (WW) at the same time I took up Meatless Mondays. I'm already two-thirds of the way to my 30-pound weight loss goal, but the vegetarian lifestyle is not as easy a fit into the WW diet as you might expect.
The diet uses a point system to measure food you eat. For my current weight, I am allocated 34 points each day. Thankfully, most fresh fruits and vegetables count as zero points, as do most seafood and lean proteins like chicken or turkey. That's great news most days -- but not for me on Mondays! Meanwhile, most soy or vegetable-based meat substitutes actually carry high point values in the WW system. A four-ounce Beyond Burger counts a whopping eight points -- which is actually more than the same-sized portion of 90% lean ground beef at six points. Fortunately, protein-rich items like black beans, lentils, pinto beans, and edamame (soy beans) are free in the WW system. So, it's possible to eat meatless and point-friendly at the same time.
But, the added challenge of planning meals and shopping for both objectives is a good reminder that our current routines are habits for a reason. The status quo is nearly always the path of least resistance. But, the bottom line is I am achieving both my carbon reduction and my weight loss goals. It's a good to feel healthier myself and also to know I'm doing more of my part to keep the planet healthy too.
That means I've used 28.49 fewer gallons of gasoline, put 570 pounds less carbon into the atmosphere, and saved myself ~$62.78 so far this year.
As for driving efficiently in my new hybrid automobile, that's also been perhaps a little harder than assumed. But, the end results are good when kept in perspective.
It's turning out to be easy to hit 40 to 50 MPG on non-highway trips involving more than just short trips around town. But, driving at normal highway speeds and taking short trips with lots of starts and stops drags that number down into the 30s. (Still much better than the ~20 MPG I would have experienced with my old gasoline-only vehicle.)
For my current tank of gas, I'm presently at 40.3 MPG. (The car gives a running tally for each trip odometer.) Overall, since I started driving the hybrid in late December, I've achieved 39.4 MPG for 1,157 miles. That means I've used 28.49 fewer gallons of gasoline, put 570 pounds less carbon into the atmosphere, and saved myself ~$62.68.
Not a bad way to start the year!