So, this is the week of Copenhagen, or, as it has been temporarily renamed, Hopenhagen. In light of the occasion, questions about sustainability have been flying around, both on campus and in the national media. What is it? How do we achieve it? How much will it cost? Why should I care? Whose side should I believe? What does it taste like?

Let us take a different route than that usually found in the media, and start with the last question. Sustainability, without the slightest trace of doubt, tastes crisp, healthy, and flavorful, with just a hint of seasoning. At least that's how it tastes when it is not soggy and discolored, which, of course, means that they overcooked the broccoli in Moulton again. Indeed, sustainability is vegetables, and vegetables are sustainable. This is not just a green metaphor, environmentalist hyperbole, or the latest devious trick to get all of you to eat your vegetables. A diet high in vegetables is essential to the sustainable lifestyle.

The point is perhaps illustrated by appealing to your senses. There is a substance which is the antithesis of sustainability—at least in the way we currently treat it. It is associated inextricably with power and flourishing of civilizations. Its image is often inseparable from those of dark, gushing liquids, the elemental furor of fire and the titanic strength of steel. This is not crude oil I speak of, but meat. Pork, chicken, and beef.

Livestock—and hence meat—production generates more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector, and even if we ignore the climatic aspects, the outlook for meat is pretty poor. Rivers and lakes have been made foul by the torrential runoff of effluent from industrial farms. The constant dosing of livestock with antibiotics forces us to live under the threat of mutant, drug-resistant superbugs, and to top it all off, the very way most meat is produced is at best inhumane for the animals involved.

This is not to say that we should all become vegetarians. The only argument which necessitates that is the moral one resulting from the disgusting ways in which animals are raised in industrial farms, which none of us have an excuse to be ignorant of. Many of the aforementioned problems would be avoided if people simply ate less. That's right, one of the biggest ways you can become more sustainable is to simply think twice about getting that hamburger at Moulton, or not get a second helping of London Broil at Thorne. This is far from an extreme request.

Global warming? Check. Animal rights? Check. Water and air pollution? Check. The list goes on and on; reducing one's meat intake ticks nearly all of the sustainability boxes. And even for those of you not of an even slightly left-wing bent (for the politicization of some of these issues has grown to appalling proportions) the benefits of eating less meat are clear. It's hard for anyone to argue against a slimmer population, and the obesity epidemic has among its principle causes the sheer number of hamburgers and other high-fat dishes ingested by Americans. Many nutritionists believe that the amount of protein recommended by the government is too high, and most people exceed even that recommendation by a large margin.

The benefits of eating even slightly less meat are impressive. A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago calculated that if all Americans ate 20 percent less meat, the reduction in the environmental burden would be equivalent to the entire country buying Priuses—minus the nasty emissions inherent in the automobile's production. Twenty percent. That's a tiny number, especially when one looks at the benefits. I would wager that most people wouldn't notice if the servers in the dining halls started making the portions of meat dishes 20 percent smaller.

This article is likely to arouse in you some negative, carnivorous sentiment, but examine your thoughts; there are few logical objections to consuming less meat. I am not a vegetarian, and—as stated above—I'm not suggesting that anyone should be. I'll come right out and say it: my concern for animal rights is not strong enough to make me give up the occasional pulled pork sandwich in the dining halls; however, the rest of the problems inherent in meat are more than severe enough to cause me to think twice about eating meat at every meal.

Looking at all of the lengths Bowdoin is going through to achieve sustainability, it seems that reducing our meat consumption is by far one of the easiest ways we can contribute to, well, pretty much every environmental cause that exists. Changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps is great, but the energy locked in 2.2 pounds of beef is equivalent to that required to keep a 100-watt incandescent lit for almost 20 days. There are only so many light bulbs we can change, not all of us have the funding available to buy a new car, and some of us have no choice but to fly home for the holidays. Every single one of us, however, is capable of eating less meat. And to top it off, none of those actions would have the far-reaching results that a reduction in your meat consumption can. The benefits far outweigh the almost negligible costs. Yes, it's true that for those of us not enamored with the Bowdoin salad bar, there are few alternatives on many days, and on such days I too find myself eating more meat than I would otherwise like. And yes, meat is delicious; but so is candy, and we don't spend our lives stuffing it into our mouths at nearly every meal.

Benjamin Ziomek is a member of the Class of 2013.