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Norway’s Army Fights Climate Change, One Meatless Monday At a Time

Norway’s Army Fights Climate Change, One Meatless Monday At a Time

Here’s the Norwegian army’s plan to fight climate change: have everybody go meatless once a week.

Norwegian troops will be eating vegetarian meals on Mondays to cut their “consumption of ecologically unfriendly foods whose production contributes heavily to global warming.” Spokesman Eystein Kvarving says that the plan is meant to be “a step to protect our climate” by serving food “that’s respectful of the environment.”

Norway’s 10,000 troops eat some 35,000 meals a day, so the army foregoing meat could put a bit of a dent in the country’s overall meat consumption. The army alone consumes about 150 tons of meat a year.

Meat is a staple of most Norwegians’ diet with the average Norwegian eating more than 1,200 animals over the course of their life including 1,147 chickens, 22 sheep, six cattle and 2.6 deer. A 2005 report (pdf) found that only 1 to 2 percent of Norwegians are vegetarian (though the number could actually be a bit higher according to other figures).

The new culinary regimen has already been implemented on Norway’s main bases and will soon be introduced to all units including those who are overseas; it is hoped that doing so will reduce meat consumption by 330,000 pounds a year. The first “meatless Monday” was held (on a Thursday, actually — it’s the thought that counts, right?) last week at the Rena military base 90 miles north of Oslo.

The response was positive, according to Pal Stenberg, a nutritionist and navy commander in charge of the catering division. As he comments, the soldiers “seemed to eat a lot of it, until journalists asked, ‘You know it’s not meat in there?’ And then they said, ‘What?’”

Stenberg knows he’s up against a formidable enemy, the belief that eating meat is necessary to develop strength and stamina:

“It seems that people don’t think it’s possible to be an iron man as a vegetarian, it seems like they don’t think a good soldier can be a vegetarian, but we have a lot of soldiers who are vegetarian, so I know it’s possible. We have to use a lot of effort in communicating both the environmental benefits and the health benefits.”

Stenberg acknowledges that the project could be a failure. For it to work, he says that soldiers must “understand why they should eat more environmentally friendly.”

The Future in Our Hands, which originated in Norway and seeks to safeguard “the environment for future generations and a fair distribution of wealth globally” — the group calls on people not to shop at large supermarkets — welcomed the army’s announcement and praised the defense ministry for taking concrete actions to address environmental issues.

Norway’s military has already allotted 15 percent of its catering budget to organic food, in keeping with national standards. Serving vegetarian meals once a week is in many ways the next logical step. Karving emphasizes that the decision to have the army eat vegetarian once a week is strictly in the interest of fighting climate change — not to save money — and being “more ecologically friendly and also healthier.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock supply chains account for nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine if the armed forces of a few more nations emulated Norway’s experiment?

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Photo Credit: solydatnytt via Flickr

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153 comments

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3:46AM PDT on Aug 25, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

5:46PM PST on Dec 18, 2013

good news

10:03PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

brilliant, should do that in every country

3:30PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

Awesome! Now maybe some of them will take the initiative and go fully vegetarian/vegan.

2:04PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

If everyone around the world takes steps such as this, the world would be a better place. Thank you for the wonderful news.

1:14PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

Que excelente ejemplo del ejèrcito de Noruega., cada vez nos comprometemos más.

12:45PM PST on Nov 30, 2013

I probably have meatless meals multiple days a week without even realizing it. But I do make sure that I include meat several times a week for my health.

1:15AM PST on Nov 30, 2013

How big is the Norwegian army?

5:11PM PST on Nov 29, 2013

we began this in our home....everyone globally should do this.....just one day.

7:32AM PST on Nov 29, 2013

Good for them!

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