Affecting Climate Change with What We Eat

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Are you as frustrated as I am with our elected leaders and their inability to move the needle on climate change? So many things regarding the climate seem “big” and out of our control.

Except, however, what we eat. The following image, from the University of Michigan, shows the carbon impact of various types of foods:


(Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2019. “Carbon Footprint Factsheet.” Pub. No. CSS09-05.) Used by permission.

Eating a more plant-based diet can have a significant impact on the climate.

From the same source: “Shifting to a vegetarian meal one day a week could save the equivalent of driving 1,160 miles.” (Weber, C. and H. Matthews (2008) “Food miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States.” Environmental Science & Technology, 42(10): 3508-3513.)

I am not a vegetarian, but over the past 15 years or so, I’ve been moving in that direction due to cholesterol issues (and I no longer need cholesterol-lowering medications!) And I’ve found that the best way to start eating plant-based recipes is to taste them and find out what you like!

Image by RitaE from Pixabay

To that end, I’m having friends over to my house for a “cook-along” where we make several vegetarian recipes together and then eat them. This is how I discovered my favorite red lentil soup recipe — by tasting it in a cooking class. If you are friends with someone who eats plant-centric foods frequently, ask them for their favorite recipes, or better yet, a taste of them! If a colleague at work brings an interesting dish for lunch, ask for a taste! If you like one out of four, that’s a win! Ask for the recipe and make it!

Another way to grow your repertoire of plant-based dishes is to subscribe to one of the meal-delivery services and try out some of their lower-meat options. Yes, there is some packaging waste to this approach, but you don’t have to order them forever. I subscribed to Blue Apron while doing Weight Watchers this summer, and after trying some good new recipes, I cancelled the subscription and have been making my favorite Blue Apron meals on my own. The ingredient list is on the recipe card, and it has really widened my repertoire of dishes.

Or maybe gather a group of friends, each of whom brings a low-meat food to a pot-luck along with the recipe. The best way to start cooking a low-meat dish is to taste it first!

Happy lower-meat cooking!

~ Jennie Elliott