The beginning of the school year brings with it an army of shared treasures. We have college football beginning again, we have our wonderful midtown bars where our feet stick to the floors, and we have the freedom that only comes with living in this wonderful swamp we've canoodled in within the heart of Alachua County.
And the school year brings new challenges to one of UF's most spectacular achievements in its history. For all the new Gators, over the past 10 months, UF has dedicated itself to its new Meatless Monday initiative in its two on-campus dining halls in order to become a more sustainable, more ethical and healthier university.
As you can imagine, even from a school voted the eighth-most vegetarian-friendly by PETA before UF began working on its Meatless Monday pledge, we still have some work to do. And at the largest land-grant university in the Southeast, in the land that invented Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q, we still have some work to do.
Gator Dining Services has already done an amazing job, challenging its sixth-largest student population to leave meat off the plate on Mondays to reduce our carbon footprint and become healthier students. This year, UF will unroll a Vegetarian Dining Guide listing every vegetarian or vegan item at every dining location on campus to make it even easier to make an ethical and environmental impact when sitting down to eat.
But even with these monumental improvements in our world of dining, we still have work to do. We must all keep working to persuade UF officials to live up to its promise of going meatless on Mondays.
When I first brought this campaign to the forefront in the early fall 2010 semester, I was told we'd be laughed at. And perhaps we were. Perhaps we're still being laughed at by a few. But we've already made change, everyone. We've made a change that will positively impact our bodies, our planet, our fellow starving men and women across the globe and the approximate 27 billion animals who are unnecessarily slaughtered every year to be put on our plates.
We collected the public support of UF's very own Office of Sustainability, GatorWell, Gators for a Sustainable Campus, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, the Earth Day Network and Animal Activists of Alachua to help Gator Dining Services make the positive change to have a vegetarian menu just one day a week in only two dining halls on campus.
In only four days at the end of last year's fall semester, we gathered more than 2,000 petition signatures from concerned UF students and faculty who realized the importance of leaving meat off their plates just one day a week. And when the United Nations recently identified factory farming as one of the leading contributors to global warming, it's no surprise so many of you gladly added your name to the list of supporters.
It's up to all of us to help Gator Dining Services realize we care about the 27 billion animals that are slaughtered every year in America and the 60 million starving people who could potentially be saved if every American left meat off his or her plate just 10 percent of the time.
Send our dining officials a friendly email to let them know you support their efforts to become better this year. Join our Meat-Free Monday at the University of Florida Facebook group to stay updated on our work.
And most importantly, believe in the change that's happening here.
Jared Misner is the campaign organizer for The Campaign for a Meat-Free Monday at UF.