By now you’ve heard of every type of diet trend. There is the low-carb diet, keto diet, vegetarian diet, meat-only diet, cabbage soup diet, boiled egg diet, fruit-only diet, no-fruit diet, Mediterranean diet, paleo diet, and even the caveman diet. Here is another one to add to the list: the climatarian diet.

The climatarian diet has an interesting premise. It focuses not only on what is healthy for you but also on what is healthy for the climate. The emphasis of the climatarian diet is to eat foods that are locally grown and in season, require fewer natural resources to grow, emit fewer greenhouse gases, are good for the environment, and reduce a person’s overall carbon footprint. The climatarian diet connoisseur knows how and where their food is produced, how it was sustained, how it was processed, how it was packaged, and how it arrives to the end shopper. The United Nations states, “More than one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity can be attributed to the way we produce, process and package food.” All of these factors contribute to climate change and to the overall quality of the food. According to Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, in an article for Health, climatarians try to reduce and avoid foods that:

  • “Require copious amounts of natural resources, like land or water
  • Contribute to pollution
  • Cause ocean acidification, which can harm aquatic plants and animals
  • Emit greenhouse gasses (GHG), which trap radiation from the sun and cause global warming
  • Use excessive or non-biodegradable packaging.”

How does your cheeseburger contribute to the greenhouse effect? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Cattle…are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions.” Raising cattle requires a lot more land space, feed, and water, and unfortunately, they are usually raised en masse. Does that mean you need to forego your favorite halal burger? Of course not. The FAO’s recommendations to mitigate the situation include:

  • Better nutrition and feeding techniques, especially for cows, which would help lessen the generation of methane gas and nitrous oxide during digestion and in manure
  • Better breeding and animal production that yields fewer and higher quality animals than mass production
  • Better land management and the creation of carbon sinks, which are natural environments that can absorb carbon dioxide
  • Better quality feed sources and feeding techniques, especially for poultry

What should you minimize and/or avoid to be more sustainable? Cynthia Sass gives us a few tips. First, limit red meat. Not only does it emit a lot of greenhouse gas, it also increases the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Second, limit dairy consumption. Most dairy production also emits high amounts of carbon dioxide. Third, limit palm oil. Palm oil production causes deforestation, and the oil is commonly found in packaged foods. Fourth, limit sugar intake. Sugar can increase the risk of getting certain diseases and contribute to obesity, and sugarcane production is harmful to the environment. Lastly, limit highly processed foods. These foods use more sugar, more palm oil, and wasteful packaging.

Now that you know what you should not eat in a climatarian diet, what exactly can you eat? According to the article by Sass, you can include the following categories of food in your diet:

  • Pulses (chickpeas, lentils, beans, etc.): Pulses minimize the need for artificial fertilizers, which in turn reduces pollution. They also improve soil quality and require less water.
  • Locally grown seasonal produce: This type of produce reduces gas emissions because it is naturally grown, minimizes transportation and packaging waste, and is not highly processed.
  • Whole grains: They do not require much water to grow.
  • Nuts: The production of nuts emits less carbon dioxide than the production of meat.
  • Mushrooms: They can grow in the waste of other crops, minimizing the need for landfills. They also require minimal water and land, and some species can be used as a plastic alternative.

Finding sustainable, locally grown, organic, pasture-raised, small-scale farmed food used to be impossible to find (unless you had a time machine). Now you can find menus with items that are “locally sourced,” “in season,” “locally grown,” “small batch,” and from a “family-owned farm.” Food techniques and food sources that adhere to saving the planet as well as your health are en vogue. Now that we are more aware of how human behavior impacts the climate and the environment, people are beginning to take notice, creating a market for these items. With that market, businesses are noticing opportunities to grow while saving the world, one vegan burger at a time.

Husna T. Ghani has an MBA and an MSEd. She is a former science teacher and is currently a strategy consultant in the spheres of communication and education. When she isn’t doing her day job, she focuses on dessert-making and saving the world, one pastry at a time.