What is the climatarian diet?

Everything you need to know about making climate-friendly food choices
Published June 28, 2021

The climatarian diet is not so much a prescriptive eating plan, in that it has definite guidelines and restrictions, but rather a set of suggestions for buying and consuming food that has the least detrimental effect to the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Veganism, vegetarianism, pescetarianism, and flexitarianism are closely related to the climatarian diet, in that the main focus is on reducing or eliminating animal-based food products, but with fewer dietary constrictions and less rigidity around food choices.

Changing eating habits to be more climate-friendly is not only good for the environment and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it can also have an overall positive effect on our health. Choosing locally grown produce, fewer packaged items and better-quality meat, eggs, and dairy are all habits that can lead to weight loss or maintenance as well as contributing to an overall feeling of nutritional wellbeing. What makes the climatarian diet so appealing is its lack of firm rules, which means you can incorporate as few or as many of the following suggestions as you would like.

  • Eliminate or reduce the consumption of beef and lamb. Cattle that have been raised for milk, meat or manure are responsible for roughly 65 per cent of livestock emissions of greenhouse gases. If you’d still like to enjoy beef, buy it less often and look for local, organic options that come from reputable farms with a focus on animal welfare.
  • Choose sustainable seafood, meaning it comes from an abundant, well-managed source. Look for the Ocean Wise Canada label wherever you buy seafood, or browse the online directory for recommendations on buying in-season, responsibly harvested fish and shellfish.
  • Opt for locally grown, seasonal produce whenever you can. Signing up for a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) box or shopping at the farmers market is not only beneficial for your health and the well-being of the environment, it’s also an impactful way to support the local economy.
  • Cut down on food waste as much as possible. A 2017 study examining food loss in North America found that Canadians wasted 396 kilograms of food per person each year (the research accounted for food waste at all stages of the food supply chain.) Ideas for reducing food waste include buying only the food you need, following a strict grocery list, not grocery shopping while you’re hungry and learning how to properly store and freeze leftover food.
  • Learn how to dispose of food in a more environmentally friendly way. From urban composting to finding municipal recycling depots that accept food packaging and other flexible plastics, there are plenty of ways to rethink how common food waste is traditionally discarded.
  • Be mindful of disposable products. Decrease your carbon footprint by bringing your own reusable cup to the coffee shop, keeping a stash of cloth grocery bags in the glove compartment, switching to washable cloth rags instead of paper towels, storing food in jars and resealable containers, and carrying a refillable water bottle with you at all times.