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Climate action at the dinner table: Your meal choices can make a difference

photo of vegetables
Plant-based eating is not only healthy, but it offers us a significant way to lower our carbon emissions.

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Michelle Courtright
With the latest IPCC report on the dire effects of climate change, we know the status quo is no longer an option if we want our economy to survive the upcoming decades of droughts, fires, flooding, food shortages and mass migration. The University of Chicago recently reported that if every American ate just one meat meal less per week, it would be the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road annually.

To that end, why aren’t we all addressing climate change at each meal by skipping the meat? We buy electric cars and limit our gas consumption, yet Oxford University found that livestock agriculture contributes more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than all cars, buses, planes, trains and all transport combined. I recently attended the United Nations’ COP24 conference with a business delegation of leaders from BWBR Architects, Target and Best Buy. Experts from around the world brought new research on land and water use in animal agriculture and how it was contributing more than was originally estimated to environmental devastation.

Plant-based eating is not only healthy, but it offers us a significant way to lower our carbon emissions. Why hasn’t this been proposed as an immediate solution in addition to green technologies and carbon tax? It has. The United Nations published a study in 2006 warning that if we continue to tear down rainforests in order to make room for more livestock production, we could be facing huge increases in GHGs. At the time, they were not even factoring in the methane cows produce, which is 28 times more powerful than CO2.


Residing in a progressive agriculture state, we have a responsibility to understand how we are contributing to global warming and what solutions we can bring to farmers to help them. According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the meat and dairy industry have announced projected a 30 percent increase in sales by the year 2030, which is directly at odds with meeting our goals from the Paris Agreement. But the IATP also has tools for farmers to shift to new crops that are more environmentally sustainable and align with climate goals.

I invite you to “Dine for Climate” at Fig + Farro this Jan. 21, from 5 to 9 p.m., where 30 percent of your meal will go directly to support Climate Generation’s climate change education and advocacy programming here in Minnesota and beyond. We should consider ourselves fortunate that the way to reduce our individual carbon footprint is as easy as eating a delicious meal.

Michelle Courtright is the owner of Fig + Farro Restaurant in Minneapolis.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by John Evans on 01/07/2019 - 11:49 am.

    When it comes to carbon footprint all meats are not equal. Pound for pound, beef is the worst. Pork is, maybe, half as bad. A pound of chicken may have one tenth the environmental impact of a pound of beef.

    The least environmentally harmful domestic animal you can eat is probably goat. It’s also the world’s most popular meat.

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