Join 4,000 people fighting climate change with our fun, bite-sized plans

February 2020 | Beef, Your Diet, & the Future of Food

In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on February 2020's topic: your diet. This article has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

What’s covered:

  • READ - facts about the impact of our diet on the environment and our health
  • LISTEN - what is the future of meat? 
  • ACT - baby steps to make your diet more eco-friendly including 5 recipes
  • REFLECT - a food Q&A and an interactive quiz

Don't forget to sign up for Changeletter to get this in your inbox each week. It's the easiest way to fight climate change and get rid of your eco-anxiety.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google

Read | 5 Food facts

Making changes in your diet is one of the biggest ways you can create environmental impact. Here's the lowdown: 5 facts to think about this week, whether you're a full carnivore or a vegan. Click into each of the links to learn more.

  1. 20% of Americans are responsible for almost half of this country's food-related greenhouse gas emissions. (Largely because of BEEF!)


  1. Seriously, we got beef. The 10 foods with the highest impacts on the environment were ALL cuts of beef. Not ready to go veggie? That's fine - just quit cows.
  2. Livestock (not poultry or fish) is responsible for 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Holy smokes!
  3. Live, laugh, love? A study with over 76,000 participants concluded that vegetarians are 25% less likely to die of heart disease. Speaking as a vegetarian myself, it's also really good for your wallet.
  4. How to really be cool: one study shows the # of US vegans spiked by 600% over three years since 2014! Although the highest estimate I've seen is only at 6%, it's clearly getting #trendy. If you're already vegan, share this huge spike with your more dairy-inclined friends!

One thing to remember: moving towards veganism is one way to make a huge environmental difference, but your journey doesn't have to be perfect. Individual behavior changes are one small part of the puzzle to solve climate change, and you can take baby steps instead of going cold tofurkey.

Listen | 7 Highlights: food facts, crickets, and the future of meat

Today is our second module (LISTEN) on the impact of your diet on the environment.


I recently discovered an amazing podcast by The Atlantic called Crazy/Genius. It's under 30 minutes, extremely informative, and thought provoking - all the episodes future-oriented and ask big questions around science, technology, and culture.


This one asks, "Will We Ever Stop Eating Animal Meat?" I loved it because it doesn't just provide a moral case - the episode features revolutions in food that may, someday (soon?) lead to more sustainable food production. It's a 25 minute episode - check it out.

Listen on Spotify


The episode covers the case for eating less meat, damage that meat production does, how we might incorporate crickets into some diets, and lab-grown meat. It's such a good episode - make sure to check it out on your commute!


Everything below is sourced by The Atlantic website or the podcast transcript.

  1. Hey Americans! Cutting meat out of your diet would reduce global warming more than giving up DRIVING.
  2. We know meat is bad, but that's not stopping us blue-blooded patriots. Meat consumption for the average American has gone UP by 20 pounds over the last 4 decades.
  3. 95% of Americans eat meat. (* Crickets chirp *)
  4. Speaking of crickets, approximately 2 BILLION people in the world eat insects, the same number of people that own a smartphone. TIme to switch to a nutritious, crickety diet?
  5. LIFE HACK - Pet food accounts for more than 25% of meat consumption, so if you're not ready to chow down crickets or give up meat, make your dog do it. Or cat, fish, pig, whatever. (You can tell I don't know anything about pets.)
  6. Lab-grown meat might be your ultimate solution if you refuse to go veggie - it's healthier, WAY more Earth-friendly, and saves HUGE amounts of water, land, and of course, happy animals.
  7. The first lab-grown hamburger patty tasted just like a regular hamburger patty. Except... it cost $330,000 to make.


I think the future looks like this.


Act | Small Ways to Reduce Your Foodprint

Avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth. (They provide just 18% of calories but take up 83% of farmland. Greedy pigs.) So, how can we start small?

  • If you're a hardcore carnivore, consider cutting back on beef. It's the most environmentally harmful food. Start with just one beef-based meal less than you originally planned.
  • As you think about creatively cutting other livestock (pork, lamb, etc.) out of your diet, swap your dairy milk out for oat milk! Oatly is a brand I really enjoy - I like oat milk because I can cook with it, put it in my coffee, and it doesn't expire for daysssss. I end up saving a ton of money, time, and headache of smelling disgusting rotten milk.
  • If we all went vegan, the world's food-related emissions would drop by 70% by 2050. That's fantastic and critical, but I think it's more important that we move towards that at a pace we can commit to, whether that's one less burger per week or no animal products at all.

While you ponder your choices, here's an extensive data visualization of food's greenhouse gas emissions. Click the photo to navigate to the actual post so you can read it better.


The food supply chain: what should you make of this?


Here are 5 vegetarian and vegan recipes that are delicious (verified by my carnivore friends).

These are in order of easy to hard, but even the hard one is not super difficult.

  1. Stuffed bell peppers - there's 2 different options here and you can make them vegan. Both have high protein content, they're super easy to make, and they're reliably delicious. When the weather starts to warm up, these also make for good party tricks at a BBQ to show off your cooking skills.
  2. Vietnamese fresh rolls. You don't have to click the recipe. It's just rice paper dipped in hot water, wrapping up julienned carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, tofu, and any herbs (mint/basil) you want. You technically put boiled vermicelli in as well, but I don't notice the difference. An excellent dip is soy sauce + lemon + chili paste.
  3. Veggie burritos with guac - you can also make these into breakfast burritos with potatoes and eggs (or tofu for a vegan option).
  4. Baked avocado fries and dipping sauce if you're feeling snacky. The dipping sauce is made with Greek yogurt, but you can get a non-dairy alternative at most major stores.
  5. Pad Kee Mao - it's goddamn delicious and restaurant quality. Thank me later (and thanks, Noopur, for the recipe).

Fresh rolls!



More actions: Start gossiping


Many of you readers are already vegetarian or vegan, but it's not the end of the story for you. I noticed that even if people don't care about the environment or animal cruelty aspect of meat, they care about eating delicous food, saving money, or both.

I got my meat-eating roommate hooked on veggie meat because I'd make us scrambles with it all the time. Whenever my carnivorous friends and family ask me what to order at restaurants, I sneakily suggest the chicken option over beef/pork.


You have a lot of power outside your individual decisions - think about the next work happy hour you plan, the next family dinner night you're at, or the next opportunity to share some delicious food - you can make it sustainable.


And while you're at it, buy Trader Joe's veggie meatballs and some form of oat milk - they're the the easiest/best/yummiest all-encompassing substitute I can think of for meat and dairy.

Reflect | Meat cute: a food emissions quiz

First, here's the quiz on how your diet contributes to climate change. Share the results and tag us!


Q: "Is lab-grown meat really healthier for us than regular meat? Has lab-grown meat existed for long enough for us to have reliable data on its healthiness or lack thereof?"


A: Short answer: we're still figuring it out.

  • Lab grown meat might be healthier than regular meat since its production should not require the use of antibiotics. Remember our panic about being destroyed by a superflu? Theoretically, lab grown meat would minimize that version of the apocalypse.
  • Since it's grown in a lab, mad scientists can play around with different nutrient profiles - more fat, less fat, different fat - you get the picture. But we don't know what the overall health benefits (or detriments) of this fat-tweaking is going to be, so if you're a meat eater thinking of making the switch, watch this space closely.
  • Some are afraid that lab-grown meat will replicate the same environmental and socioeconomic problems in our current food system, because this higher price tag will only be accessible to a small number of people. The jury's still out on if the pros outweigh the cons.


My take: lab-grown meat will be a "good" alternative to traditional meat... in moderation. Plant-based is still the way to go. (Thanks, Mark, for the question!)


Q: What other alternatives are there to being vegetarian or vegan? Is there a "good" way I can consume meat?


A: Pescatarian (fish only) or poultritarian (I don't know if it's a real word, but it includes poultry) are more environmentally sustainable alternatives. If you're feeling particularly loose, you could also be a flexitarian - someone who primarily eats vegetarian, but occasionally consumes meat and fish. That one's really honor-system based, but I trust you.


Q: What impact are people of color making?


A: I dug around on this question at the request of one of our readers (thanks, Agnes!), and honestly, the mainstream results were fairly lacking. Erasure of the vegan/vegetarian POC movement is real, and I'll be doing more research on how to make Changeletters include those perspectives. There isn't a lot of intersectional analysis that I saw right away, but one thing stood out - we associate "vegan" strongly with whiteness and wealth, especially in America.

White people will often co-opt recipes and dishes from communities of color - these are turned into trendy, high-price restaurants, cookbooks, video trends, and more - often with no credit given to their real history. This article got me thinking a lot about white veganism and how exclusive it is, although people of color have been making vegan food for centuries.

Your action: If you like Mexican food, visit veganmexicanfood.com. It's free!

It's launched by a Chicanx and vegan activist who wants to bring to light how much of Mexican food is actually not dependent on meat and dairy.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google