Here's The Deal With Climatarianism

You've probably heard of the three "Rs" — reduce, reuse, and recycle — but some people are turning this mantra into a lifestyle that informs one's consumption in every way, including diet, shopping, travel, and more. Climatarianism is a philosophy that promotes self-awareness of an individual's daily actions and the impact those actions can have on carbon emissions. 

According to Sustainability For All, the goal for climatarians is to reduce their carbon footprint. "Climatarians don't only eat thinking about how many emissions their food may have generated, but also in how they can protect the planet by the way they dress, move around or enjoy themselves," the sustainability site states. 

While the term climatarian has gained more attention as a health food trend in recent years, the concept isn't a new idea. A 2009 Audubon headline promoted a climatarian diet, noting that "the human hunger for burgers, chicken wings, and ham has turned our stomachs into a bigger driver of climate change than our cars." In 2015, The New York Times included the term on its list of "top new food words." 

History aside, let's take a closer look at climatarianism and what it could mean for your lifestyle today, particularly your plate.

This is what a climatarian puts on their plate

A climatarian diet aims to reduce the consumer's carbon footprint by "eating locally produced food (to reduce energy spent in transportation), choosing pork and poultry instead of beef and lamb (to limit gas emissions), and using every part of ingredients (apple cores, cheese rinds, etc.) to limit food waste," reports The New York Times

A 2019 report published in the The Lancet medical journal (via The New York Times) strongly recommends North American countries reduce their red meat consumption, aiming to consume about half-an-ounce of red meat a day, or "the equivalent of a McDonald's Quarter Pounder every eight days." The report states that the bulk of a person's daily calories should be derived from whole grains, unsaturated fats, legumes, and green vegetables.

"It's not a blanket approach but when you look at the data there are certain individuals or populations that don't need that much red meat for their own health," said Jessica Fanzo, a co-author of the report (via The New York Times). "There's a real inequity. Some people get too much. Some people get too little." On average, people in South Asian countries reportedly eat only half of the aforementioned recommended amount of red meat, while North Americans eat more than six times the recommended amount.

Another recent study (via The Weather Channel) noted that India's dietary guidelines had the lowest carbon footprint in the world among the nations examined — 77 percent lower than U.S. dietary guidelines. Food for thought as you plan your next meal.