Eating EAT-Lancet: Conclusion

Estimated reading time: 16 min. For something shorter (reading time: 7 min) see "one week of eating EAT-Lancet"

And no, not eating the report (far from ideal, nutritionally). Just following the proposed new guidelines by a bunch of smart researchers for a “sustainable diet”.

It’s been a week of counting, calculating, and cleaning measuring cups, and let me tell you- it wasn’t easy at first. 

And if this is the only post you read from this series, here is a summary of the take-aways from the start.


  1. Eating 6 forms of animal sourced food (beef/lamb, pork, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy) in one day is ridiculous, and impractical (just imagine your weekly shopping list…getting anxiety just thinking about it? yeah me to).
  2. I had no concept of what a gram was (blame ignorance, or being American, or both for that matter).
  3. I straight away ignored some things (for sanity purposes). i.e the authors gave no category for coffee (but they also didn’t for water so… same thing?).
  4. I lumped things together and tried to stay within the limits for the week (eating 1/4th of an egg a day? unenjoyable and inconvenient)
  5. adjusted the numbers to bring it down to around 2000 calories a day (ball park). i.e. not everyone is an adult male.

Basically from day one I realized this diet is theoretical, and far from practical. Makes sense for academic report writing but does not for real life. So, it took some brainstorming and number crunching to translate this thing into something doable. For example, I choose to eat only one type of meat for the week (shopping for one here). And I tried to come up with a shopping list that wouldn’t make me run to the store everyday , or break the bank (because I’m a working woman with a life and an expensive travel obsession).

This diet is only a first step for sustainability. What you buy and how its produced matters. There’s way more to it than just keeping your meat intake to 300 grams a week.  Even if you do eat more meat, if its produced sustainably and you’re supporting those systems and local farmers in the process, that’s just as important. So, in addition to a shopping list, below are some links that take these extra steps.

Week One: 

Tip: Stay away from processed foods, and look for the smallest amount of ingredients. 

I tried to stick to products that had (certified) elements of sustainability: local farms, pasture raised, organic…but weren’t absurdly expensive. 

  • .5 lbs of fresh chicken
  • block of cheese (130 grams)
  • half dozen eggs
  • A bag of MSc Certified Flounder (frozen). Check the Seafood Watch App. 
  • a can of black beans, can of chickpeas
  • package of cashews
  • jar of peanut butter
  • Whole grain loaf of bread 
  • Seasonal fruit and veggies (focus on colors- esp. reds, oranges, and greens).

I was already stocked on things like whole grain rice, lentils, olive oil. I also already had some veggies from Hungry Harvest . Waste not, want not, right? 

Also for food waste- compost! As an urbanite, thankful for companies like compost cab.

Now, while day 0 consisted of me trying to figure out what a gram is (not to be confused with your mother’s mother), I did eventually get the hang of it. Good, because washing measuring cups was starting to take its toll. 

You’re days worth of legumes (black beans), nuts (cashews), and cheese.

Still, it wasn’t easy tracking things for a week. Which is why I whipped out my handy excel skills to make sure I didn’t go over my weekly limit (you say nerdy, I say smart). The stuff in red? Had a pretty hard limit, with a strict range, and unhealthy if eaten in large amounts. The green stuff? I wasn’t worried about going over because the range was pretty wide. The yellow items were those that needed to be watched.

Thankfully I was able to stock my fridge with exactly what I needed for the week. Shopping and stocking up in this way made it a lot easier for 1) cooking and 2) the anxiety.

Still, no one’s perfect, and I went over my weeks worth of eggs, fish, and legumes. Really? Legumes? Turns out while many are saying that this diet dramatically increases your intake of legumes- if you’re used to having them as part of your diet, it’s really not that much. I didn’t even eat them everyday.

For fish…the flounder fillets I got (sustainable sourced obviously) were prepackaged separately (yes, I know, plastic pollution… not everything is a win-win). For me, I needed about 2-3 fillets a week… so you either overeat your weekly amount or under-eat. Which just shows how hard it is to make this thing practical.

Finally, the most shocking thing about this diet was the amount given for eggs. As a vegetarian, I was eating a good amount of eggs. This diet? It’s about 2 large eggs EVERY 10 DAYS. See, I would much rather eat less meat, and have more eggs. Which is something I always considered more “sustainable”, especially since eggs are fairly easy to find locally compared to meat- where locally produced often comes with more stringent regulations in the US (and a hefty price).

On that note, one thing the authors could have done is offer a few different “reference diets” for different dietary trends: flexitarian (current), vegetarian, and vegan. These other diets exist, and are becoming ever more popular. Ya girl needs her protein, and what if I want to get all of it from plants? 

And what about substitutes? (Step away from the almond milk, that stuff takes up SO MUCH WATER). So oat milk? Or coconut milk? Is a coconut actually a fruit or a nut? The internet can’t even decide. Quinoa is apparently a seed? What do I do with that and these other popularized millennial items? Specificity comes with obligations, EAT-Lancet. See Critiques and Solutions for more.

Some of these decisions I avoided. I put aside the coconut milk and quinoa and stuck to the classics, like cheese, bread, and rice. Other things I ignored, like coffee/tea and spices. A couple other things I tried to adhere too or incorporate, and failed…. But did you know that there is about 30g of grain in a pint of beer, or 200g of grapes in a glass of wine? At least I tried. See this post on... sustainable alcohol consumption? To our collective dismay, alcohol does take resources to produce.

All in all, once I moved past the quizzical looks of my roommates as I obsessively measured every ingredient, or shooed away wandering hands trying to cut into my perfectly measured amount of cheese (my tolerance for sharing definitely went down), I realized I was absolutely eating healthier. Mainly because I was actually paying attention to the amount of servings I was getting of each food group.

There are critics that say this diet isn’t nutritionally perfect. And you know, maybe it isn’t. But whose diet actually is? Trying to eat a diet that is nutritionally perfect is just as theoretical as it is impractical. There is no doubt that if everyone ate according to these guidelines, or any well-meaning guidelines based on nutritional science, diet-related health issues would dramatically decrease. Because, what is a healthy diet anyway? Just try googling it, and dig yourself a deep internet rabbit hole while you’re at it.

Still, the biggest downside of this EAT-Lancet report is that it seems to recommend a diet built on our current, highly destructive, food system. A specific recommendation for palm oil? Really? And while the approach the authors took makes sense for modeling, frameworks, academics, yadda yadda…it still fails to embark on the question: what kind of food system could we have instead? Which, admittedly, is a whole other report and modeling exercise in itself. The authors do recognize the diversity of contexts, and the need for diverse production systems and solutions- of course, sustainability is highly context specific. Yet they recognize this, while giving a highly prescriptive diet with limited ranges and no substitutes? This diet is hardly sustainable if not applied in context, and as it stands it does not provide enough room to adapt.

For example, let’s say a country’s agricultural wealth was in its grasslands. The whole western US is covered in rangelands that are suitable for grazing cattle (since we killed off all the buffalo). Would it not make sense then, to get our portion of meat from grass-fed beef, instead of getting it largely from poultry…which would probably have to use large amounts of grain that directly competes with human diets? Even if all your meat for the week came in the form of unprocessed red meat, the total is so small that it probably won’t impact your health, even long term (any nutritionists out there? help?).

Photo by Skitterphoto on

Wait, hold up…I’m saying beef is ok? Well, at current levels of production- it’s not. Unfortunately only 5% of the US market for beef is grassfed, and the rest emit A TON (see post on exactly how many tons).

So, I think the totals are totally  doable (.5lbs- 2/3 lbs of meat a week). A half gallon of milk. 2-3 frozen fish fillet’s a week. 2 eggs every 10 days? still a little testy about that one. But overall, as a flexitarian diet for someone that still want’s to eat meat/fish 2-3 times a week, or not give up cheese, its great. But only if summed up at category level and then applied to context- not as currently written.

And while it’s great modeling exercise providing a framework for flexitarians, the report is still rooted in a global context- which is not how diets should work. Diets should be based on what you have available, what’s in season, what’s local, and obviously on your nutritional needs.

So should nutrition drive what we produce? Or should our resources? A huge gray area lies in between those two questions. One thing’s certain- the answer lies in the grey, and it will meet both human and environmental health goals. Where in that gray area? Well, that one depends on… you guessed it, context. And sooner or later we will find it- thankfully we humans are extremely innovative and adaptive… 

But let’s find it sooner, rather than later.

Days 2-4: TGIF, time to wine down.

Honestly, thank god for the food scale or I would have gone insane trying to figure out these quantities. Though I will say,I’m starting to get the hang of how much these things weigh and what my daily limit.

For example, a tablespoon of olive oil is around 14g. The reference diet for unsaturated oils is 40g, with a range of 20-80g. So a little less than 3 tablespoons for olive oil a day, an easy thing to keep in mind when cooking. Also, I know what a tablespoon of peanut butter looks spread on how many grams of grain of bread. 16 g of peanuts and 50 g for the toast. So, while the first couple days consisted of a lot of weighing, which meant a lot of washing of bowls and measuring cups, its slowly starting to make sense.

Still, there were somethings I needed to take the calculator out for. Like for milk equivalents. I already knew the milk equivalents for cheese because #priorities, but greek yogurt? No clue. Turns out the internet didn’t clearly know either. But thanks to the lovely people of the internet, I was able to get it down (see the end for values).

Furthermore, it’s Friday. And what if ya wanna turn up this weekend? Or at least grab a glass of wine or a beer with some friends. To our collective dismay, alcohol takes resources- like grain, fruit, and sugar- to make.

Is it really that significant? Well, in the US we drink 9 liters of pure alcohol per year. Now, not sure how much that translates into wine or beer, but I’m assuming it’s a lot.

And how do other countries compare? Check out this cool map from Our World in Data. See Russia and Eastern Europe coming in red hot? I guess some stereotypes do reign true. 

EAT-Lancet, of course, does not offer a reference for sustainable alcohol consumption. Probably fair, offering a recommendation for alcohol sounds irresponsible. Or is it?

This probably warrants another post, but there are plenty of studies that look at moderate alcohol consumption and what that means for health. Some even say that small amounts can be positive. Glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away? Sounds a bit too good to be true. But the report dives into these kind of studies for red meat, which is often unhealthy and culturally inappropriate, so why not alcohol?

Anyway, I took to my calculator to at least figure out how many grains in a glass of beer and grapes in a glass of wine. With another thanks to the people of the internet, I got the numbers. Probably way off, so if you know better- please weigh in. [Pun intended]. The whole point is to make this diet realistic…right?

  • Milk to cheese equivalent: 10 to 1 (ex. 250 grams of milk is 25g of cheese)
  • Milk to greek yogurt: 4 to 1 (ex. 1 gallon of milk is 1 quart of greek yogurt)

As with anything on the internet, these may not be accurate. But it offers something to work with. If you have better values please share!

  • Beer: 30 grams of grains
  • Wine: 200 grams of grapes

Full disclosure, this was even more a shot in the dark than with milk, using spottier internet information. 

So, as with anything on the internet, these may not be accurate. But it offers something to work with. If you have better values please share!

I will update this with other conversions if needed (and more importantly, if I can figure it out). 

You may be thinking: this is great and all, but what did you eat? Here’s a breakdown below. 

And how am I tracking all of this you ask? A good ole spreadsheet. I will upload an easy to use version of this once I nail out the kinks (and figure out how to do it on wordpress).

US Beef- Let’s talk emissions.

There’s been a lot of push back from the EAT-Lancet report. Especially from the meat industry, but also from a lot of meat-friendly US citizens. This is not surprising of course, and it makes sense- their industry and way of life is under attack, and it’s natural to get defensive. Often, the argument goes that the United States beef sector only contributes a small percentage to US emissions. However, there’s already several faults in that comparison.

  • EAT-Lancet is a global analysis, not focused on the United States (guys, its not always all about us)
  • EAT-Lancet focuses on all environmental impacts of the food system, not just GHG emissions, and not just livestock (i.e, land degradation, deforestation, biodiversity loss, nutrient pollution, water use, over-fishing, etc.). Though livestock is a big part.

Here’s a sentence from EAT-Lancet: “Food production is the largest source of environmental degradation, and has the greatest effect on the Earth System.” Period. Talk about a wake-up call.

And while the report has some major drawbacks, the main message of “eat less meat, eat more plants” couldn’t be more clear. And correct. Emissions aside (14.5% of global carbon emissions), livestock- of all agricultural sectors- is the largest contributor to deforestation (land conversion to pasture), biodiversity loss, and nutrient pollution. This is both directly, and indirectly through crop production used to feed livestock.

But alright, people want to focus on emissions. Let’s. The most complete (and recent) analysis I’ve seen of livestock in the United States is of the beef industry. This study found the beef sector emits 243 Tg CO2e (CO2 equivalent- aka all carbon emissions, including methane, etc.). Or 3.7% of US emissions.

Cattle represent 65% of livestock sector emissions, according to FAO. This is a global estimate but let’s say that reigns true for the United States. This puts total US livestock emissions at 374 TgCO2e, or 5.7% of total US emissions.

Yes, true, that seems small..but don’t forget, the US emits a lot. TONS. 6,511 tons CO2eq to be exact. With a population of 325.7 million, that’s 20 tons per person a year. That’s almost 3 times the global average: 7.2 tons per person. If the average US citizen emitted the same as the world average, that 5.7% would increase to 16%. Pretty significant.

Now these are rough estimates, but it shows how the story changes depending on how you look at the numbers. Sure, 5.7% of US emissions seems small but not when you compare to how much the United States emits in total.

Another argument is that cattle can do great things, especially in the United States where we have huge amounts of grazing land. And when sustainably managed, they can restore the soil, promote biodiversity, and provide valuable forms of nutrition where crops wouldn’t be able to grow. All facts, and good things. This is especially true of developing countries, where a lot of poor would greatly benefit- both in livelihood and nutrition- from increased production of meat, especially these kinds of systems.

However, since grass-fed beef only constitutes 5% of the US market, this “cattle do great things for the environment” argument cannot be used in favor maintaining levels of US beef production. Cattle can do good in theory, yes. But at current numbers, the destruction far outweighs any kind of environmental or health benefit.

So for now, skip the beef. And if you just have to have that steak, buy in small quantities and most importantly from local farmers and ranchers who are using sustainable grazing methods and maintaining the health of their land- they need the support.

Eating Eat-Lancet: Day 1 Shopping List

So now that I’ve cranked some of these numbers out, it’s time to hit the store. And actually, this means that it’s back to a flexitarian diet for me. For the past 3-4 months I’ve been sticking to a vegetarian diet.

As mentioned in the Day 0 post, I’ve lumped somethings together, to make shopping easier and keep my sanity.

Some things on my list (which I tailored, you can see those decisions also in Day 0):

  • A half gallon of milk (I need 6 cups) or 150 grams of cheese (about 9 slices). Obviously cheese.
  • .5 lbs of meat. Chicken it is (paying attention to brand).
  • .25 lbs of fish. Not sure which one, but I’ll use the Seafood Watch App
  • We got some veggies and fruit from Hungry Harvest. Waste not, want not- right?
    • What I still need, I’ll check out the Seasonal Food Guide, and try to stick with those in season.
  • A loaf of whole grain bread.
  • And I’m already stocked on rice, beans, lentils, peanut butter, nuts, and olive oil.


What’s this all about you ask? Check out the overview.

This diet cannot be perfect, you say. Well it’s far from it, check out these critiques.


As mentioned, I tailored the values slightly (decreased) for a diet closer to 2,000 calories. Here’s the original from EAT-Lancet.  

I’m terrible and didn’t have time to eat breakfast (some argue most important meal of the day, I say its a nuance on work days). 

Also, I wanted to make it easy today and meal prepped yesterday for both lunch and dinner. Which was pretty much a simple veggie stir-fry (without egg) (I split the final in two).

  • 200 g of brown rice (grain)
  • 167 g of red bell pepper (red and orange vegetables)
  • 100 g of snap peas (dark green vegetables (I hope))
  • 140 g of onions (other vegetables)
  • 100 g of black beans (legumes)
  • 40 g of olive oil (unsaturated oils)

This caps my limit for grain, legumes, oils, and I technically go over the limit for vegetables. Actually fo vegetables, EAT-Lancet gives a pretty big range- 200 to 600 g per day- so I’m not worried about going over the limit for those. 

So, that leaves fruit, dairy, meat, eggs, fish, tree nuts. I’ll have some fruit and nuts as snacks to reach 2000 calories, but to start off strong today is #veganday. 

Eating Eat-Lancet Day 0: What’s a gram?

Not to be confused with your mother’s mother.


So, I got a food scale. Turns out I had no conception of how much a “gram” is, which is what the reference diet is in, so I spent a good 15 minutes just measuring different food items from around my kitchen.

For one, it’s really hard to translate these guidelines into actual meals. Also, not everything fits into a category…where do I put my millennial items of quinoa and coconut milk? Quinoa is technically a seed, but nutritionally is more like a grain. And coconut milk? Is it a fruit, is it a nut? The internet isn’t even sure. You chose to be specific EAT-Lancet, and specificity comes with obligations.

Though, a thought. As I’m looking at the coconut milk can I bought a while ago… I start thinking, what is actually more sustainable? Maybe I should be consuming more American produced dairy (considering especially the plight of US dairy farmers) instead of importing coconut milk from Thailand…Is that more sustainable? I do deeply care about US farmers, especially small producers who’s stories are often heart breaking and devastating.

This is a tough question, that highly depends not just on miles traveled, but how it was produced and what went into production. The coconut milk traveled over 8,600 miles (!!!). Now that was a reality check (thanks, Siri). Still, dairy production can be unsustainable in its own ways. All things considered though, I will stick with American dairy cows (sticking to brands that deal with small farmers and sustainable methods).

Also…really? 13 grams of eggs is about 1/4 egg a day. I like my eggs over easy…do they know how messy that would be? I’ll just stick to 1-2 eggs a week, but likely eaten all at once. Crazy, I know. 

This egg issues also brings up the meat issue. Let’s see…shopping for 49 grams of beef, 49 grams of pork, and 203 grams of poultry for the week? I’m already getting a headache. See below under the toggle “give me the breakdown” to see how I make it a bit simpler. 

A couple things I won’t think about- spices and coffee. I know these things take a lot of resources to make/produce and don’t just magically appear, but I also need to keep my sanity.

Prepping my lunch and dinner for tomorrow, where the real counting and measuring will begin. Turns out 232 grams of rice is kind of a lot. So where am pulling these numbers from? Check out the first post that gives a bit more background, or see below to see the reference diet.

This is the reference diet from the report, Food in the Anthropocene. 

So the total intake is 2500 kcal/day, which is a bit high for me, who should be sticking closer to a 2000 calorie diet. 

So, here’s how I adjusted it (no scientific method was used, so if a nutritionist weighs in on how a female in her mid 20s should be eating, that would be great)

  • Grains: 200g, instead of 232g
  • Meat: 32 g instead of a total of 43g (.5 lbs a week)
  • Milk: 214g instead of 250g (6 cups of milk a week)
  • Fish: 21 g instead of 28g (.25 lbs a week)
The rest were as is, allowing vegetables, fruit, and legumes to fall towards the higher end of the range. I’m also tracking what I eat through an application too, to see calories and nutrition.

So, while I changed the diet a bit for myself, here would be the numbers as is. 

You’ll notice I categorized some for the whole week, this is mostly because eating 13 grams of eggs or 7 grams of beef a day would be 1) unenjoyable and 2) extremely inconvenient. So I lumped it together for the week. I don’t believe this has major nutritional implications, but feel free to comment otherwise. 

So, let’s say you wanted to look at your meat intake for the year. And so you add 301 grams of meat to your shopping list for the week. Let’s say you stick with one type of meat for that week.

300 grams is about 2/3 (.67) lbs of meat per week. To stay within the EAT-Lancet ratio for the whole year, that would mean: 

  • Poultry: 34 weeks out of the year
  • Beef: 7-8 weeks out of the year
  • Pork: 7-8 weeks out of the year

Your weekly shopping list for fish would be 196 grams, or about .43 lbs. 

For milk, that would be around 7 cups of milk, or a little less than half a gallon (which has 8 cups). So, you would be buying a half gallon of milk every 8 days or so. 

For cheese lovers who would prefer to get their dairy in this form (ME). That’s about 175 grams of cheese a week (10:1 ratio, for those curious). This is about 6.173 ounces of cheese for the week (EVERY DECIMAL COUNTS HERE). On average, that’s about 10.3 slices of cheese a week. 

Eating Eat-Lancet: The Roots

Eating Eat-Lancet

Nutrition, aka how we get our nutrients to be healthy, cannot be removed from how those nutrients are produced. Far too often we look at nutrition and food production in isolation. So backwards. That would be like trying to diagnose a disease without looking at the symptoms. Tracking down a criminal without looking at the evidence. Trying to pass an exam without understanding the material. You get it.

As environmental threats and limitations increasingly put stress on our food system, we have to look at the kind of healthy diet we can have while also having a planet. As the population grows, it increases demands on the food system. So, we need to think about how much food, and in what quantities, we can sustainably feed the world and also meet nutritional requirements. This is what the EAT-Lancet report attempts to address, and it’s the first attempt of its kind.

Nonetheless, while a commendable effort, it has it’s issues- just like any “first” does. Some argue that the recommendations are too specific. And while they give ranges, this is a valid concern. Some argue that the diet is nutritionally deficient. Nonetheless- due to the global problems of obesity, hunger, and malnourishment-one can argue that if everyone ate according to these guidelines, many of these health issues would be solved. Even with a diet that isn’t perfect nutritionally. Because what is a healthy diet? There’s still a lot we don’t know.

Still, an example. This diet isn’t always sustainable when it comes to the vilification of red meat compared to poultry, something that doesn’t always reign true.  Cattle grazed under good management can provide valuable nutrition and restore the land, with more sustainable practices than industrial poultry production- which uses feed that could otherwise be fed to people.

Still, the main message of the report “eat less meat, eat more plants” is clear, and its what we should be doing.

However, eating sustainable is highly context specific. It really depends on where you live, what you have access to, and what you can afford. Its highly country and regionally specific. For example, if a country’s land wealth is in its grasslands, having more red meat in your diet than poultry- which would have to be produced industrially- would probably be better for the environment. So let’s say you stick to the recommended 43 g/day of meat, and all of that came from unprocessed red-meat. This is still likely a small enough amount that would be far from risking your health (though if there are any nutritionists out there reading this, please weigh in).

So, this journey is a goal to roughly translate these recommendations listed in the EAT-Lancet report, into a “sustainable diet”, but one that is based on context, in this case Washington, D.C. That being said, the plan is to take the ranges given in the report and apply them to what’s available- working to meet all nutritional requirements. The next post in this series, Day 0, gives more of a breakdown on what this will look like.

2 End goals:

  1. Use this journey to create a guide that helps others eat sustainably, within their own contexts.
  2. Allow for a discussion on how to eat for both nutrition and the planet.

9 Rules of Thumb

9 Rules of Thumb for a Sustainable Diet

Many of these will be explored in later posts. 

  1. Local is sustainable.
  2. Certified is better than conventional.
  3. Research certifications and labels.
  4. Seasonality is important.
  5. Cut back on meat.
  6. Reduce your waste.
  7. Know food safety.
  8. Think how your choices impact change.
  9. Be aware of food policy.

It’s important to note that these are “rules of thumb” not rules of law. These are based on research, expert opinions, and common themes. Even so,hey won’t apply always, everywhere.

See something important that’s missing? Don’t agree? Please comment! These are not set in stone, and will likely change and evolve!

Here’s diving into each one a little deeper with explanations and tips.

1. Local is sustainable

  • Local is almost always more sustainable, while food labelled or with certifications might not always be.
  • Local is becoming easier to access- many grocery stores are starting to offer local products if you don’t have access to a farmers markets.
  • Tip: want to enjoy those farmers market strawberries come winter time? Freeze them! They’ll be good for 12 months.

2. Certified is better than conventional

  • When you can’t buy local, a certified product is typically better than its conventionally produced counterpart.
  • Not all certifications are created equal. See the blog post on labels and certifications, and when they’re better than conventional and when they aren’t always

for these first two, see “local vs sustainable” post

3. Research certifications and labels.

  • Many labels don’t require certifications- if you are buying based off of those it’s critical to do the research.
  • In the works are some tools that assess some of these certifications, and where they stand in terms of sustainability.

4. Seasonality is important.

  • Focusing on the types of foods you’re eating alone can improve sustainability, instead of certifications/labels that are often expensive and confusing.
  • Seasonality can be big, and even shopping regionally can promote sustainability and the domestic economy. If something is not in season, buy frozen. This can still support local or regional farmers- as they often freeze what ripens on farm or if they have too much.
  • This rule of thumb is also critical for fish, as healthy fish stocks change rapidly, across seasons and regions of the world.
  • If you can, pay attention to the company- and do a quick google of their production practices. Are they in the news for doing some terrible things? Better to avoid.

5. Cut back on meat.

  • Cutting back or giving up meat is often the single most impactful thing you can do when trying to improve the environmental impact of your diet, and improves your health
  • However, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re replacing it with.
  • Also replacing beef with poultry or pork can reduce your environmental impact, but to a lesser extent.

6. Reduce your waste.

  • Bring grocery and produce bags to the store, use Tupperware and reusable bottles, compost food waste.

7.  Know food safety.

  • If you know you want have time to make something- know when you can freeze it. Or if you’re full and something is going bad, cook it up anyway and put it in the fridge or freezer.
  • Use by/sell by dates are confusing. Use your senses! They most often will tell you if its good or Localbad. Of course, if you’re still uncertain toss it (hopefully in the compost).

8. Think how your choices impact change.

  • Actively think about how your food was produced, who produced it, and where did it come from. This bit of reflection before putting something in your shopping cart can make a huge difference.
  • Be conscious of the decisions you’re making, and if they’re going towards the sustainable food systems you want to see. For example, cutting back on meat is good for the environment but if you’re just replacing that with intensively produced soy- you’re not thinking about system change.

9. Be aware of food policy.

  • Many governments have local food policy or agricultural policy councils: subscribe to their mailing lists, go to a meeting, or get involved.
  • Do you know the Farm Bill? It’s the single most influential agricultural legislation in the US. Call your congressmen & congresswomen and let them know it’s important!


Local vs Sustainable

(estimated reading time: 6-7 min)

Not the first thing you typically want to do but let’s just really quickly go over a couple definitions.

  • Local food: grown close to where you buy and consume it.
  • Sustainable food: low impact on the environment, respects workers

The two are not always the same. Local food can also be produced with harsh chemicals and environmentally destructive practices, while “sustainable” food may not be produced close to where you are.

Plot twist: while “sustainable” food, even when travelling far, can sometimes still be sustainable, local farms will almost always be the more sustainable option.

Let’s rephrase: Local is almost always more sustainable, while food labelled with certifications might not always be.

This is for two different reasons.

One. Local farmers are usually produce on a much smaller scale, and even if they have no certifications or may use some harsh chemicals, they are not likely using them to the extent that there is great harm done to the environment. Also, small-scale farmers, especially those who produce a diverse number of products, are tied closely with the land- often understanding these systems far better than we ever will. Also, investing in small scale farms promotes the kind of scaled back farming systems we want to see more of. This supports the incomes of farmers who are working hard, doing what they love and are passionate about. Still not sure? Have a talk with the farmer who produces your food.

Two. “Sustainable” labels are not a thing. There is actually no way to control or regulate the word “sustainable” because it is a complex and dynamic concept, and so too many definitions exist. So, while you can purchase products that are labeled with different certifications, it’s extremely hard to determine where it falls on the “sustainability” scale. This is something the project will aim to tackle at a later stage.

Of course, when lacking access to farmers markets, a good practice to follow is that certified products are typically better for the environment compared to the same product produced conventionally. This is simply because certifications hold farmers and their production practices to higher standards.

So, here’s a recap with two rules of thumb:

  1. Local is almost always more sustainable, while labelled food might not always be.
  2. When you can’t buy local, a certified product is typically better than its conventionally produced counterpart.

As with anything though- not always, and not everywhere. Number 2 is especially dicey and goes back to the issues of labels. Hence, why it’s a rule of thumb, and not a rule of law. Also a question that you may have- what is the difference between a certification and a label? Post to follow.

Note, a huge exemption: fish. You’ll have to be careful with this one, because the rules for fish are always changing. A future post will look at this issue.

ANNOUNCEMENT: In the works is an updated map of all Washington, D.C. farmers markets including days they’re open, times, when the season ends, and forms of payment and benefits they accept. This will help make it easier to track down that local farmer for all your questions 😉.

Mission: Enough with the labels.

(estimated reading time: 5 min) 

This first post explains the inspiration and thus mission of project.

Healthy, nutritious food that is good for your body, the environment, and the animal should be something that everyone can access. It should be something we can all talk about.

However, we have overwhelmed ourselves with labels: organic, fair trade, natural, hormone-free, grass-fed, gluten-free, sustainable, environmentally friendly, ecological, fresh, local, raw, eco, etc.

Even worse, we have gone even further, putting these labels on ourselves: vegetarian, vegan, omnivore, carnivore, pescatarian, freegetarian, and others that we can’t even keep up with.

What is most bothersome is that while we’ve been label-izing everything, we’ve lost sight of the one goal we’ve had since the beginning: changing our food system.

Moving from label to label ignores the fundamental and dramatic shifts that need to happen- it perpetuates an old system by simply replacing one product with hopefully a better one.

And yes, “sustainable” is a word that gets thrown out a lot, and put on labels without a second thought. However, above all others- this is the one word we should stand by. Because it implies a system that is holistic, resilient, and cyclical. It implies systems that are intertwined environmentally, social, and economically. Three legs of a stool which when missing one, topples over.

Yet, for all the critically beneficial things sustainability could do for us, our food system is far behind from achieving the fundamental changes that need to happen. The reasons can be boiled down to one:

We have been investing in the wrong kind of food system.

And while markets have been slowly changing, organic food has gotten cheaper, farmers markets are popping up everywhere in urban areas, these emerging products remain out of reach for billions of people (yes, billions), due to lack of access either financially or physically. This is because we continue to put subsidies, investments, policies, and incentives into systems that are not environmentally, socially, or economically sustainable in the long run.

Capitalism has allowed us to overrun ourselves with confusion, making it impossible to really understand what a sustainable diet and food system could really look like.

This is what this project aims to do- bring us all to the table. By offering a tool to make the most of your purchasing power and knowledge, you can help invest and steer the ship towards a sustainable food system. This, through the farmers, companies and politicians that are actively building it for us, and not just labeling that they are.

It’s time to put an end to all the confusing labels, and really bring to light the changes that you can easily make to contribute to the kind of food system that will work better for all of us.

Keep a look out for the next blog post that will outline this project!