Climate Local Now: Meet the Climatarians, who Dine with the Earth in Mind

Pictured Above: Local farmers markets, like the Flanders Farm Fresh Food Market, are a great way to jump into the climatarian diet.

By Mary Morgan

I’ve been meeting some Climatarians lately. It’s a lifestyle that is starting to trend, especially with millennials.  

“What Is a Climatarian?” the NY Times headlined, describing this new climate-centered lifestyle. I think of it as “dining with the Earth in mind.” Wikipedia says the Climatarian diet has no strict rules, other than “mindfulness about food production, where food comes from, and where it goes.” I like that. 

A big part of being a Climatarian is being mindful of where your food goes — do you use it all? Give excess away or feed animals? Any leftover scraps — do they end up as compost, enriching soil, not in the landfill releasing the potent greenhouse gas (GHG) methane?  

Self-described Climatarians are giving TED Talks. One of my favorites is Australian Mark Pershin’s Reclaim our Future with the Climatarian Diet. His dark eyes flash talking about his love of shashlik, a shish-kabob from his native Russia. He defines being a Climatarian as healthy for both humans and earth, eating more traditional cuisines, not the unhealthy “meat-heavy Western diet” pushed by industrialized “concentrated animal feedlot operations, CAFOs.” 

Then he smiles, suggesting we try kangaroo. With a 97 percent smaller footprint “they don’t burp methane, and you don’t need to cut down trees for them to graze.” Mark’s ending salvo: they are native, adapted to our dry climate, are lean and versatile and when he substitutes kangaroo for beef in dishes, friends say it’s delicious. (Think venison!)

Meet Amanda and Taylor

I met Amanda_The_Climatarian (her Instagram handle) earlier this summer. Living in western Massachusetts, 30-year-old wildlife biologist Amanda and her husband dine on mushrooms (they are members of a South Deerfield CSA) and frequent farmers markets for all the wonderfully-ripe in-season produce. 

Amanda says her cooking is richly plant-based. A favorite dish is mushroom pizza with truffle oil and homemade tofu “ricotta.” Other specialties a la mansion are mushroom tacos and “king oyster mushroom ‘scallops’ with pasta.” Do they compost? You bet. 

“I have an outdoor, dual compartment barrel composter. I love it!” she says.

“Eating with a Climatarian ethos,” Amanda told me, “means consuming intentionally with the planet in mind.”  She puts locally grown food first, then considers how it is grown — are resources being conserved, especially water? 

“Each meal we eat in a day is an opportunity to vote with our dollars for more regenerative food systems. I think anyone who does the best they can — within the limits of their own abilities, access, and resources — to choose more climate-friendly foods can be a Climatarian.”

Brooklynite Taylor loves oysters, so when she visits her parents in Orient, she has plenty of oyster stands to choose from. As for eating out, “I always order the local Long Island options, to try more varieties.” 

A lot of her friends are “flexitarian” which she says is really a health choice. One friend likes to add seafood to her basically vegetable cuisine, another stays with vegetarian “unless they know the fish or meat is coming from a humane and sustainable source.”

“I’m absolutely drawn to the aspect of reducing food waste,” says newly-minted Climatarian Taylor.  There are so many points of the food consumption process that generate waste, and any waste we can reduce is important. We should consider the packaging and transport, how much we purchase at a time, how much we cook at a time, how we save leftovers, what we do with scraps, everything.”

In the backyard at her parents’ place, Taylor is planning a compost system. Meanwhile, she puts eggshells and tea leaves in the garden and freezes veggie scraps to take to Deep Roots farm in Southold “for the chickens.” 

In Brooklyn, Taylor took part in the municipal food scrap program, which she explained paused during the pandemic but now “the city is starting composting pick up again this fall, which I am very excited about.” 

“It’s a wonderful resource,” she says. “You can compost nearly anything — including bones, proteins, greasy food, and soiled paper.” 

For now she delivers her Brooklyn scraps to the nearby farmers market.

Will the Climatarian Trend Make a Difference?

Consider this. Today’s food system has become the single greatest cause of global warming (34 percent of GHG emissions) and soil loss, chemical poisoning, rainforest destruction, dying oceans. Our current system of “Big Ag” chemical farming and food waste can be changed to a regenerative system. (Regeneration by Paul Hawken)

“Halve food waste, halve emissions,” says the UN Environment Program (SDG 12.3 Food waste index | ThinkEatSave)

The #1 Solution for the U.S. calculated by Project Drawdown is to Reduce Food Waste. Here 40 percent of food grown is wasted, with a whopping 70 percent generated at the household level.

 I calculate, based on Drawdown’s math, that if we can 1) bring our food waste down by 60 percent (think soups, pasta sauce, and, this is critical, no food to the landfill), 2) make a healthy habit of once-a-week-red meat (or source beef and chicken from regenerative farmers, not those cruel CAFOs), and 3) buy local first, we can shift our wasteful food system to use-everything regenerative, with compost enriching our soils and sequestering tons and tons of carbon. 

It sounds do-able, dollar-saving, and delicious. Try it! Check out the #Climatarian trend happening @Climatarian.Cafe

Former Locavore now a Climatarian, sailor, beachcomber Mary Morgan lives in Orient with her husband Tom, naturalist and mushroom forager, early founders of the East End chapter of Slow Food in 2004. Two years ago Mary co-founded a grassroots effort, Drawdown East End, to inspire local solutions to drawdown and sequester carbon. DrawdownEastEnd.org

Climate Local Now is a partnership between the East End Beacon and Drawdown East End, whose mission is to inspire local solutions to reverse global warming. |  DrawdownEastEnd.org

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