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Climate change: it’s what’s for dinner.

June 17, 2011

With all the marketing and branding for eco-friendly products these days, is it paying off for companies?  Are people changing their consumption patterns and ‘going green’?  From food to clothing, cars to homes, studies show that yes – in fact – we are.   A report from the European Commission found that 75% of people said they are ready to “buy environmentally friendly products even if they cost a little bit more.”  Clearly we intend to make choices that are good for the environment, but do we? When you’re at CVS or your corner store, do you spend more on eco-products?  How do you know if it’s just marketing or a truly sustainable product?

Greenwashing has become so pervasive that many of us don’t buy it anymore.  Although these eco-strategies lead to a benefit for companies, it’s not always the case for the planet.  And some are nothing short of ridiculous.

When it comes to your own decisions, how do you actually know what will reduce your carbon footprint and what’s just hype?  The answer has much more to do with your daily life than switching out lightbulbs, recycling your empty Brooklyn lager bottles, or even driving a Prius.  [Cue gasp.]  What could be more environmentally responsible than driving a Prius?

Well, my carnivorous friends, the answer is: your dinner.

Before reading Anna Lappé’s Diet for a Hot Planet, I knew that industrial agriculture played a role in contributing to climate change.  What I didn’t realize – and what she spells out in detail – is how big a role. Livestock alone creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, and other fossil-fueled modes of transportation in the world according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in their widely cited report, Livestock’s Long Shadow.  In fact, our current food system—from industrial farming to packaging to transporting—contributes as much as one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions.  Some reports even tip the scale closer to half. 

As Bill McKibben’s recent op-ed was put to striking visuals this week, the effects of climate change become more palpable and haunting. The urgency to understand the true consequences – and benefits – of our climate choices matters now more than ever.  In this equation, nothing changes the planet as much as the way we eat.  Not taking public transit, not recycling, not even forgoing the printer for a full year at Wagner.  (After IGID, that’s saying something.)  So, knowing that you could make an impact – a significant impact – by changing your meals, would you?

The folks behind the recent Planeat film advocate for an animal-free diet.  Pretty ambitious for most, but I applaud those who can give up cheese.  (I’m an addict.)  So, no – this is not the part where I guilt you into becoming vegan.  Read on, meat-eaters, read on.

The movement to link the impact of food on climate is growing – thanks in part, to the Center for a Livable Future and the John’s Hopkins public health students behind Meatless Mondays.  For both environmental and health benefits, they bring together resources, recipes, and a whole network of bloggers and activists in the task of challenging people to drop the meat, once a week.  National awareness of Meatless Mondays is growing, and the message is simple.  If every American were to take a hiatus from meat just one day each week, the effect would be the equivalent of taking 8 million cars off the road.  Refusing meat is, decidedly, the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

Here’s your chance to sidestep the weary task of navigating green-marketing and eco claims; this one’s the real deal.  Want to lower your climate impact?  Cut the meat, once a week.

Will you join me?


Christina Bronsing is interning with Food First this summer, researching and blogging about the intersection of climate change and food systems.  She is traveling to Bolivia in August to hear from small-scale farmers directly about how they are experiencing climate change and how they are adapting to its effects on the field level.

connect: @cbronsing |


For those of you who have great veggie recipes, please share them in the comments!

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 17, 2011 12:40 pm

    MM network: seriously. delicious. blogs.

    The City Vegetable: for cold summer lentil salad, roasted beets and more. YUM.

    Meatless Mondays recipes: breakfast, lunch, and dinner – they’ve got you covered. and the occasional dinner for 50. 😛

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