With the topic of sustainability in every headline these days, many people are feeling guilt, shame, frustration or irritation at the constant pressure to go vegan or eliminate every scrap of plastic from their lives. Habits of Waste, a nonprofit environmental organization, was formed to support everyone in their desire to make an impact — no matter how large or small. Now, the organization’s new app, #8meals, is making it easy to save the planet just by adding some more plants to your diet each week.

#8meals app screenshot describing the app's plant-based recipe database

What is #8meals?

The goal behind Habits of Waste is to empower individuals to feel okay with being imperfect. The truth is that even small changes make a big impact. Sometimes, we lose sight of that when we’re feeling hopeless about the state of pollution, global warming, climate change, deforestation, etc.

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A newly released, (and free!) app, available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store can be found by searching “Habits of Waste” and is identified as #8meals. The app is based on a scientific study performed at University of Michigan and Tulane University that shows even implementing a few plant-based meals each week can make you a warrior for the environment.

The app offers a variety of recipes from breakfast to dessert. You can schedule recipes each week, and you even have the option to add your own plant-based meals into the database. The app tracks each vegan meal you eat per week, totaling up the amount of emissions you have saved by nixing meat, seafood and dairy.

#8meals app screenshot of homepage and personal carbon emissions savings

The problems with meat and seafood

It’s well-documented that a plant-based diet is a huge win for the planet. Firstly, plants absorb carbon dioxide and store it in the soil, while releasing the oxygen we breathe. Secondly, overfishing is decimating the ocean ecosystem with a direct impact on all types of marine life. Fishing is responsible for around half of all ocean pollution. In addition, marine animals facilitate the trapping of carbon in the ocean, which is a crucial tool for slowing global warming, so a high seafood catch rate reduces that benefit.

Back on land, raising livestock for the table results in high levels of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere and requires the use of land that would be better suited to planting crops. Plus, animal agriculture strips the land in a way that has a circular impact, contributing to biodiversity loss, acid rain and even coral reef degeneration.

#8meals app screenshot of vegan recipes to choose from

Switching to a plant-based diet

Even with all the evidence, it’s hard to make the change to a plant-based diet. What do you eat? How do you get the nutrients you need? What products are actually plant-based? #8meals serves up the answers, a bit of educational info and some easy-to-follow inspiration to help increase plant-based consumption and decrease animal product intake.

The name comes from the idea that eight vegan meals makes up 40% of the standard weekly diet, which directly takes some ‘heat’ off the planet. Using the app, you can add your meal plan to your calendar, designating the #8meals that work for your schedule. Go vegan for the weekend and add a few dinners during the week. Or plan for two breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners. The point is, you can take a lackadaisical approach to the whole vegan thing and still be doing good for yourself and the Earth.

Sheila Morovati, founder of Habits of Waste said, “Going plant-based is a huge ‘all or nothing’ step for many people so we thought we would take pressure off and introduce a partially plant-based diet so that everyone can join in. Our #8meals campaign and our corresponding app is based on scientific evidence that every meal counts towards combating climate change, protecting animals and living healthier.”

#8meals app screenshot of recipes scheduled in a calendar

Habits of Waste is making a difference

This isn’t the team’s first foray into shaking up the norm in the name of environmental sustainability. Previously, Morovati worked to divert 20 million crayons that otherwise would have landed in landfills into the hands of vulnerable children. Habits of Waste was also behind the work to ban plastic straws and cutlery in Malibu. Most recently, the #cutoutcutlery campaign successfully motivated Uber Eats, Postmates and Grubhub to change the default setting on the order window so customers must opt-in to receive plastic cutlery with their orders, reducing the amount of waste associated with single-use plastic. Currently, the organization is working to influence legislation in the state of California that will expand the policy beyond food delivery apps.

We expect to see much more from Habits of Waste as it continues to address ways the average citizen can feel empowered in their actions. After all, the mission of the nonprofit is to clean up the planet, one ‘habit of waste’ at a time. The beauty of the movement is proving the power of change when many people make small contributions. As inhabitants and stewards of the land, we have a responsibility to understand our impact and lessen it where we can. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean heavy restrictions or limitations.

Martin Heller, research specialist at the Center for Sustainable Systems explained, “We cannot wait for governments and corporations to act. Perhaps the single greatest contribution we can make as individuals is to change our diet. The carbon footprint reduction of committing to at least eight plant-based meals a week is on par with switching to a hybrid automobile for the average American family.”

Check out the app for some guidance on your plant-based journey. If compelled, consider donating to habitsofwaste.org in support of its work to protect the planet and all that inhabit it.

+ Habits of Waste

Images via Habits of Waste and Mathilda Khoo