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Climate diet trend: A "reducetarian" explains how to eat with the health of the planet in mind

Making climate-friendly food choices
"Reducetarian" diet focuses on climate-friendly food choices 01:49

New diet trends are taking on climate change, one plate at a time.

You may have heard of "meatless Mondays" or maybe even "vegan before 6." Now, more consumers are making deliberate food choices and even altering entire dietary practices with sustainability in mind.

"Young people are definitely concerned about the planet. They know they have many, many more years left and they want there to be a healthy and sustainable planet," says Brian Kateman. The author and documentarian decided to eat less meat after learning how damaging it is to the environment. Kateman even coined a term for it: reducetarian.

"A reducetarian is anyone who's made the decision to cut back on the amount of animal products that they consume - so that's meat, eggs and dairy," says Kateman.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, nearly 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from meat production

"It takes a lot of resources," says Kateman. "You think of the land, you think of the water, you think of all the food you have to feed to the animals."

A 2022 Earth Day report from the consulting firm Kearney found that 80% of consumers had at least some awareness of the connection between food choice and the environment. The report identified a growing segment of consumers it calls "Climavores," and anticipated that in coming years routine food choices will be more climate-directed.

The food production industry is paying attention and companies are trying to latch on to younger, climate-conscious consumers.

"It's a competitive advantage for companies to be seen as at the forefront of doing something about climate change," says marketing expert Michelle Greenwald.

While there's no single standard for carbon footprint labeling, some restaurant chains are touting their efforts right on their menus. Panera identifies its low-carbon entrees with a "Cool Food Meal" symbol, and Just Salad offers a "climatarian" filter on its app. Greenwald expects this practice to catch on. 

"There's going to be more carbon footprint labeling on food, and I think it's going to be a factor in how consumers make choices about what to eat."

Kateman acknowledges that Americans have an attachment to meat. "We grew up with it, we go to baseball games and have hot dogs, we have traditions around holidays. Meat is definitely ingrained in American culture." 

But he believes those habits can evolve. "I think it's a more tolerable idea to cut back rather than necessarily go vegan or vegetarian," says Kateman.

That starts with swapping in plant-based ingredients where meat used to be. For example, "I still have burritos — I just have guacamole instead," says Kateman. "Or I still have pasta, but instead of meatballs I make it primavera with vegetables."

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