Eating for a smaller planet; a beginner’s plan

New Years Resolutions are stupid, but I welcome any chance, however arbitrary, to do a little reflecting on what I want to change in my life. January is a good one. My list of improvements to make is always long and intimidating, but that’s good, I think, a symptom of ambition, not a symptom of unhappiness.

One of many items on the list: I want to eat more sustainably in the year ahead. This post exists because I want something out there in the world to keep myself accountable.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m slowly working towards eating less meat. For me, it has little to do with eating animals. Rather, I’m growing more and more afraid of climate change and the uncertain future of our planet, and any way you slice it, mass-producing meat is bad for the environment.

Maybe the biggest improvement in my life since I finished college: I’m reading more on my own time, and less to keep up with syllabi. Through some of this reading, it’s become abundantly clear to me that to save our planet, we are going to need to seriously reduce the amount of meat in the average American diet. The rationale: it not only takes a tremendous amount of food, water and land to grow animals for consumption, but it takes a tremendous amount of fossil fuel to move animal products around the country and world. This graphic shows the environmental costs of different kinds of meat:


The good news: climate change is scary, and it’s a great test for our generation, but that also makes it a great opportunity for humanity, a rallying point for us to come together and cooperate. Carbon footprints aren’t zero-sum; we don’t need to draw hard lines against eating meat. We can reduce the impact of our eating slowly and gradually.

I’m not going vegetarian any time soon, and I don’t think I ever possibly could. Since I’ve become fully autonomous when it comes to what I eat, I’ve found myself shifting further and further from carbs and more towards an extremely high-protein diet. At my baseline, I might eat meat with every single meal. So I get it – this is tough, and to some people, it probably seems unnatural.

With all of this in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to slowly work towards a more planet-friendly diet. Here’s my super-reasonable plan for eating more sustainably:

-Keep meat just to meals / no meat-based snacks. This is pretty damn easy, since it pretty much only eliminates jerky, which is expensive and kind of wack anyways. This way, we keep meat meals to breakfast, lunch and dinner, a total of 21 per week.

-On Mondays, I eat fully vegetarian. I’ve been doing this for a few months now, and it’s so much easier than I ever thought it would be. This means a lot of eggs, which isn’t exactly great for the planet either, but hey, let’s pick our battles. 21 meals – 3 on Monday = 18 meals left.

-No meat with breakfast; occasionally, I might myself a little turkey bacon, because I really really like it, but that’s it. 18 meals remaining – 6 more breakfasts = 12 meals left.

-At least three additional meals a week, I’m eating meat free, ideally something junk-food-y. This is kind of freeing; it could be healthy, I guess, like a huge bowl of filling veggies like sprouts or a veggie-based soup, but it’s better for the soul to get back to childhood basics: massive PB&Js or big cheesy pizzas, guilt free, cuz it’s for the planet.

12 meals – 3 = 9 meat-eligible meals a week. 

That’s still a lot of carbon footprint, potentially. The rules below exist for damage control:

-No beef. I’ll definitely be cheating on occasion – cheeseburgers are just too good – but as a rule of thumb, beef is the biggest pollutant in our environment.

-More fish. This is also freeing, another opportunity to explore – I really didn’t ever eat seafood until I studied abroad a few years back, so most dishes are brand new to me.

-When possible, eat local produce and dairy. It’s more expensive, but not as bad as you might think. I’m privileged to be in position to do this, living in walking distance from a few farmstands, but even at a big supermarket, you can find local options. For me, fruit is the tough thing – I don’t eat much dairy, since it’s pretty tough on my stomach.

-As far as meat goes, I’m sticking pretty close to chicken, a moderate choice for the environment. I love pork in every form, so I’ll be enjoying it from time to time, but generally, it’s chicken or bust. Turkeys are forgivable to eat as well, though a bit worse, purely due to size.

-Nothing imported. Not really a problem for me, cuz I’m not walking around with the money to import shit. No lamb, which really just means I gotta cut down on gyros. Less brie cheese I guess, but you can get brie from the states too, or Canada, and it’s cheaper than you’d think.

-SCAVENGE. Don’t let other people waste their food; eat the dregs off someone’s plate, box up any meat leftovers at a restaurant, keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.

Anyways, that’s it – I’m not trying to convertor proselytize anyone, just hoping to step in the right direction. It feels more powerful, somehow, to publish it.



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