Stress Eating over Climate Change? Become a Climatarian

Adjusting your diet can be good for the planet, not just your body.

When you eat a plant-based diet and reduce your food waste, you’re doing more than taking care of your health and saving money: you’re contributing to lower greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture. Choosing plant-based foods reduces demand for animal agriculture, which not only lowers emissions, but it means less land will be cleared for animal farming and less fertilizer use .

plant based diet

Food wasted throughout the world is estimated to be responsible for about 8% of global emission, according to Project Drawdown . That organization found that reducing food waste is the climate solution that could cut the most emissions, followed by adopting a plant-based diet.

Consumers make dietary changes for a variety of reasons, especially for health reasons. “Climatarians,” people who make dietary decisions to reduce their carbon footprint, are gaining traction, particularly among younger people. A 2020 survey by YouGov , a market research firm, found that one in five millennials in the U.S. changed their eating habits to reduce their resource consumption and their impact on  the environment.

Sustainable Cooking

Interest in sustainable cooking has been growing for years as people recognize the impact of food on the environment.

“The way we eat is both a driver of climate change—the food system accounts for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions—and an accessible solution,” wrote Caroline Saunders in an article for Grist , a media organization dedicated to news about climate solutions. “Unlike energy or transportation or the gruel that is national politics, our diets are a problem with solutions as close as the ends of our forks.”

Approximately a dozen “climate cookbooks” have been written since 2020, Saunders wrote.

“These cookbooks might play an important role in the transition to sustainable diets,” Saunders wrote. “It’s one thing — and certainly a useful thing — for scientists and international organizations to tell people how diets need to change to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. It’s another to bring the culinary path forward to life in actual dishes and ingredients.”

Among the cookbooks Saunders reviews are Perfectly Good Food: A Totally Achievable Zero Waste Approach to Home Cooking by Margaret and Irene Li, and Eating for Pleasure, People, and Planet by Tom Hunt. Both feature recipes using sustainably grown foods and ingredients that are safe to eat even if they’re not perfect, such as wilted vegetables.

Smart Appliances for Sustainability

In addition to leaning into a plant-based diet and learning new ways to cook sustainably, kitchen appliances can contribute to a climatarian lifestyle.

Today’s appliances have capabilities to reduce food waste and support healthier cooking, says Jessica Petrino, educator and appliance expert at AJ Madison, a family-owned online appliance company with showrooms in Washington, D.C., Miami, and Brooklyn.

“Some consumers want a product that is really good at serving its essential function,” Petrino says. “After all, fridges are meant to keep food fresh. When ingredients start to spoil, they give off ethylene gas. This is why foods tend to spoil simultaneously. Many refrigerators come with filters inside the refrigerator to scrub the air, reducing odor and ethylene gas.”

Petrino recommends refrigerators with dual refrigeration, which have separate motors (compressors and evaporators), for the fresh and frozen sections.

“This separation stabilizes temperature and humidity in the refrigerator and freezer compartments,” she says. “The result is produce that lasts two to three times longer than in standard models.”

Petrino says that in the past dual refrigeration features were only available in the most expensive fridges. Today, several brands including Whirlpool have introduced models at a more affordable price point.

“New refrigerators use technology to extend the life of fruits and vegetables and absorb odors,” Petrino says. “Some smart refrigerators include a screen on the front that can help people plan meals, order groceries and use up soon-to-expire ingredients. Many consumers are seeking to buy products that align with their personal beliefs. So, if your goal is to reduce food waste and save money, a smart appliance can be a good fit.”

Some smart fridges use artificial intelligence to learn user behavior and adjust for optimal performance, low noise levels and longer-lasting ingredients, Petrino says. They can notify you if the door is ajar to reduce spoilage, and some include technology to reduce bacteria in water and ice dispensers.

“Smart cooking appliances can recommend recipes that calibrate to ingredient preference, family size, dietary needs and even pan type,” Petrino says. “Brands like GE, Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and LG all offer meal planning integration.”

For sustainability and other benefits, Petrino recommends switching to an induction range or cooktop.

“Consumers choose induction for its cleanability, safety, speed and efficiency,” Petrino says. “The best part is that there’s an extensive assortment of induction cooktops and ranges to choose from that fit every space, budget and lifestyle.”

Induction cooking can offset the negative impacts of fossil fuel consumption, such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. The shift to induction cooking can bring numerous advantages to society, including improved health, better air quality, a positive impact on the climate and even potential financial savings, Petrino says.

Technology such as ovens with internal cameras can prevent food waste from overcooked or burnt food, while also preventing wasted energy from opening the oven door to monitor cooking progress, she says.

“Appliances with automatic technology updates will push the most up-to-date features,” Petrino says. “This prevents people from replacing products due to outdated technology. Instead, consumers can save money and the planet by keeping their products longer.” 

Petrino suggests that consumers review sustainability reports on the websites of appliance brands they’re considering. Here’s what she suggests consumers look for in those reports:

  • Carbon reporting – reporting of carbon emissions over time internally or with external suppliers, decarbonization targets and carbon offsetting strategies.
  • Environmental reporting – look for companies that demonstrate a reasonable understanding of their environmental impact and quantified future targets to improve their environmental performance.
  • Use of toxins typically found in goods – look for phasing out or banning of toxins beyond legal requirements. 

Slashing Your Food Budget

Focusing on a plant-based diet can make a big difference to your savings, too.

Food bills average16% less for consumers who switch to a low-fat vegan diet, an average savings of more than $500 annually compared to a diet that includes meat, dairy and other animal products, according to analysis by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published in JAMA Network Open.

Switching from a meat-heavy diet to a plant-heavy diet saved more than $800 over five months for investment writer Alana Benson of NerdWallet . She went from eating meat twice a day to eating meat one to three times per week to improve her health, and then discovered the side benefit of substantial savings on her grocery bill.

Whether you’re looking for a healthier lifestyle, to lower your carbon footprint, reduce food waste or save money, mindful cooking and shopping, tweaking your diet and choosing smart appliances can make a difference. 

Publisher’s Note: This content is made possible by our Today’s Homeowner Campaign Sponsors: Whirlpool. Whirlpool takes sustainability seriously, in both their products and their operations. Learn more about building and buying homes that are more affordable and less resource intensive.