On April 2, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day encourages eco-friendly eating.
According to the National Peanut Board, the average child will consume 1,500 PB&J sandwiches by the time he or she graduates from high school.
That’s a lot of roof-sticking sandwiches going down your throat. The sweet, slightly salty, nutty combination is rather appealing, and with just an effortless smear of a knife, it’s a recipe virtually anyone can follow.
In honor of the timeless lunchbox classic, April 2 marks National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day. You know what that means – it’s “Peanut Butter Jelly Time,” everybody.
The origins of National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day are a mystery. However, in 2007, a man named Bernard Brown decided to team up with the nonprofit Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs to launch a full-fledged National PB&J Day-based campaign.
Bernard wanted not just to simply recognize PB&J as a delicious sandwich combination, but more importantly, highlight its environmentally friendly properties. PB&J is an entirely plant-based sandwich, allowing it to save an abundant amount of energy that other sandwiches, such as a ham and cheese, cannot.
“The goal of the campaign is to encourage people to reduce the environmental impact of our food system by eating more plant-based meals,” Brown said. “It seems like other strategies to help the environment through how we eat, like local or organic, had strong lobbies, and eating lower on the food chain is usually neglected by mainstream environmental organizations or presented by vegetarian organizations in very black-or-white terms that can turn off people who might be into more moderate steps.”
Swap a typical animal-based lunch like a tuna sub or a grilled cheese with PB&J, and you can reduce your carbon footprint by at least 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, according to SEE.
If it’s red meat you are ditching, like a ham sandwich or a hamburger, you can shrink your carbon footprint by almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, and in doing so, you’ll probably also cut a lot of unhealthy fats and cholesterol from your diet.
“Animal products, red meat in particular, tend to contain higher levels of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol compared to plant products, which contain higher levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids and zero cholesterol,” said Dr. Alison Ventura, a postdoctoral fellow at the Monell Chemical Senses Center.
Higher intakes of saturated fats and cholesterol through foods such as red meat, are associated with higher levels of total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol – two leading predictors of developing cardiovascular disease, Ventura said.
“The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that we limit our intake of dietary cholesterol and that we reduce our intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10 percent of our calories and replace saturated fatty acids with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, thus, more PB&J and fewer hamburgers,” she added.
Aside from the health benefits, why exactly are plant-based lunches like PB&J so much more environmentally efficient than their animal-based counterparts?
“Animals use most of what we feed them to keep their bodies running rather than to add on flesh or produce milk or eggs, so that we essentially save feed or the resources that we use to grow it when we cut out the middle-man, or middle-cow in this case,” Brown said.
Simply stated: Animals require a ton of energy and resources before they can be turned into food. According to the United Nations, 30 percent of the Earth’s land is used for raising animals for food. This includes an excess amount of land needed to grow crops to feed animals, rather than humans, and land needed for grazing, which can lead to deforestation.
According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat, and farm-raised fish must be given five pounds of wild-caught fish to produce one pound of seafood. To raise and feed the animals we eat requires both a significant amount of fossil fuels and water.
SEE pointed out that 17 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches could be created with the water needed to produce the beef of one burger, and 19 PB&Js could be produced off of the land required for this one burger alone.
So, just for one day, the PB&J campaign advocates that individuals eat a fully plant-based diet. This doesn’t have to include peanut butter and jelly, but it’s a good start.
Consider revisiting your youth and smack some smooth, peanuty richness together with a little of that sweet strawberry, grape or any of your other favorite jellies for an easy, cheap meal.
Consider varying the nut by going for almond butter instead of peanut. Or switch out the jelly and smear on some marmalade or honey instead. There’s also every kid’s favorite, marshmallow fluff, which adds a sweet kick to the sandwich.
Sliced apples are another good option. There’s also variations such as chocolatey Nutella, waffles instead of bread, adding dried fruit and countless other ways to spruce up a PB&J.
If these choices seem overwhelming, Ventura recommends sticking with all-natural peanut butter, real-fruit jelly and whole-grain bread to get the most out of your sandwich, a recipe she considers to generate a “very nutritious snack or meal.”
While Bernard notes that other environmental efforts, such as making the switch to energy-saving lights, are important, he assures us that, “participating in National PB&J Day tastes great. And it’s a lot more fun than screwing in a light bulb.”
Grace Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.