It’s no secret that what you eat makes a difference in your health. But, did you know that what you eat also impacts the health of our planet? The Climatarian diet is an arguably necessary diet trend sweeping the nation. Environmentally concerned citizens are hopping on board and hoping others will too. Here are a few simple ways you can eat a Climatarian diet to help the environment too.
What is the Climatarian Diet?
Climatarians believe that what we choose to eat has a significant impact on the earth and everyone on it. The Cambridge Dictionary added the word in 2016. And they define a Climatarian as, “ a person who chooses what to eat according to what is least harmful to the environment”.
Climate and environmental changes threaten the stability of our water systems, clean air, pathogen exposure to humans and crops, decreased yields, increased pesticide use, higher food costs, and more. There’s an environmental cost to grow, harvest, and sell the food that we eat. Climatarians are trying to lessen the damage by making conscious food choices.
There are no rigid rules to this diet, only making choices with the environment in mind. Each person who follows a Climatatrian diet may have different foods they choose to exclude or eat more of.
Here are 5 ways you can eat a Climatarian diet to support the environment.
Choosing to eat food that is produced locally results in a lower carbon footprint of that food. The amount of fuel needed to ship a carton of bananas from Central America to the northeast coast of the USA is significant. Now, compare that to the amount of fuel that a farmer 20 miles away uses to get his produce to the market.
When you eat locally, there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions and your food is fresher and more nutrient-rich. You’re also supporting the local community and encouraging farmers and producers to continue to grow, make, and sell in their local area.
Of course, eating local isn’t always possible. There are many nutrient-dense and delicious foods that are likely grown in a climate different than your own. You don’t have to avoid all imports to make a difference. Start small by heading to your local farmer’s market and getting what you can there. You can also research what companies are in your home state or region and make it a point to purchase from them versus their competitors.
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If you’re trying to eat more locally produced foods, you’ll want to start paying attention to what foods are in season. Eating seasonally increases the chances you’ll find your produce fresh and local. When you eat out of season, you’re eating food shipped from halfway around the world or eating foods that have been in storage for an extended period of time. Which is not very climatarian diet friendly.
Find out what foods are in season where you live and try to develop your meal plans around these foods. Try buying foods in bulk when they are in season and freezing or canning them. Want to eat berries all year? Buy them in bulk during the summer and freeze or can them to enjoy all year long.
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Limit Animal Products
Climatarians may eat plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, cut out certain types of meat, or just reduce their overall meat consumption. There’s no one size fits all rule. Only acknowledgment that eating too much meat contributes to environmental damage.
It’s estimated that livestock are responsible for 68% of nitric oxide emissions, 64% of total ammonia emissions, and 35-40% of methane emissions worldwide. These contaminants contribute to polluted waterways and the atmosphere. In addition to the pollution caused by livestock, up to 40% of all grain produced worldwide is for livestock consumption, not humans.
As a Climatarian you can choose to eat less meat, avoid certain types of meat, or adopt a plant-based diet. Instead of meat, try plant protein such as beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds for your next meatless Monday.
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Cut Down on Food Waste
You look through the refrigerator and find a rotting head of lettuce and a bowl of leftovers from who knows when. You’re not alone when a good portion of the food you buy ends up in the trash. Food waste estimates are between 30-40 percent of the food supply, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Food spoilage, damage, and contamination result in waste in every step from production, processing, shipping, retail, and finally in our homes. It’s numbing to realize that 690 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night. All the food waste is food that could have helped someone in need. This is a huge component of the climatarian diet.
Not only is food waste a slap in the face to our world hunger crisis, but it wreaks havoc on the environment too. The resources used to produce, process, ship, and sell go down the drain as well.
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This was all food that took energy, effort, and carbon to produce and make its way into your home.
Food companies need to do their part to ensure efficient production, storage, and shipping processes. You can make a difference in reducing food waste as well. Purchase only what you need and learn new ways to use the “scraps” you usually toss in the trash. Broccoli stalks, spinach stems, bread crust, apple peels, and more can all be put to good use. Find ways to use as much of the food you buy to save money, improve your nutrition, and reduce the amount of food you need to purchase.
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Know where your food comes from
Where you spend your food money can help support companies who support the environment. Do your research, and be wary of unverified environmental claims. “Greenwashing” has become a common trend among companies as consumers are more aware of the importance of protecting the environment. Greenwashing is when a company makes false claims about the sustainability of its practices or products. And that won’t work for the climatarian diet.
Some labels to look for to ensure the company is practicing what they preach might include:
- Rainforest Alliance Certified
- Carbon Neutral or Carbon Free
- “Post-consumer Material” or “Recycled Content” listed on the packaging
- B-Corp Certification
Spend your money on food produced by companies that are making efforts to preserve the environment.
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The Bottom Line on the Climatarian Diet
If you’re looking for ways to fight climate change and support the environment, a Climatarian diet might be for you. You can follow a Climatarian diet by eating locally and seasonally, cutting down on meat, reducing food waste, and buying from environmentally conscious companies.
Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian, freelance writer, and plant focused food blogger. She’s passionate about making plant focused eating accessible, fun, and delicious. In addition to geeking out over nutrition science, Kelsey is an herbal enthusiast and loves to experiment with homemade and natural alternatives in the home and spending time with her two small kiddos and husband.