Plant-Based Diets: 5 Climate-Friendly Food Swaps

Think about your most recent meal and its ingredients. How did all of those components get to where they are now, sitting in front of you? Think about all of the processes that it had to go through, and how much carbon was emitted from the process of harvesting those ingredients?

Caring about the environment is also an issue of equity and justice. There are companies that exploit the workers who harvest the ingredients that you use, but you may not realize that as you stroll through your supermarkets or get curbside pickup. 

Environmental justice is not just about reducing how much energy you use or how much water you consume. It’s also about addressing the impact that you make on the environment as well as on marginalized agricultural communities through what you choose to put into your body. 

Some foods may have a larger climate impact than you anticipated, and some might be putting certain agricultural communities in harm by making foods in their communities so highly-priced due to your demand. Below are some ways that you can easily begin or continue to lessen your climate impact.

FROM DAIRY MILK TO YOUR FAVORITE PLANT BASED SUBSTITUTE

From oatmilk, to almond milk, to soy milk, when it comes to plant-based milk substitutes, the options are exponential. Looking for something creamy? Get yourself some oatmilk! Looking for something low-calorie? Head for the almond milk. Switching to a plant-based milk will halve your climate impact and also gives you a chance to experiment with your favorite recipes that typically incorporate dairy ingredients. Bottoms up!

FROM THE SUPERMARKET TO THE FARMERS MARKET

When thinking about the impact that individuals collectively make, it’s important to think about the process your food takes to get to your table. Transporting food via air travel makes much more of an impact on our environment than transporting food by the sea, emitting more than 50 times that of the sea. Try to swap any berries for other fruits that are transported on boats when they are out of season, and any other foods that travel through air. However, more than anything, the best option is always to eat local foods to reduce the emissions made by the transportation of these fruits and veggies.

FROM REGULAR BUTTER TO VEGGIE SPREAD

Butter is one of those ingredients that you could find in almost any meal. Need to toast a piece of bread? It’s buttered. Need to give your pancakes that extra “oomf”? Drop a slice of butter on top. What isn’t readily known is that the carbon emissions from dairy-based butters are about 3.5 times more harmful than that of plant-based butters, so every time you spread that deliciousness on bread, tortillas, arepas, or whatever it may be, you are contributing to harming the environment. However, you don’t need to sacrifice any of that deliciousness, as there is an array of plant-based butters that are just as creamy! Check out this list for some recommendations.

FROM BOTTLE TO TAP

If you’ve seen the recent documentary Seaspiracy on Netflix, you’re probably blown away by the massive numbers of plastics in the ocean. With more plastic particles than stars in the galaxy, thinking about ways to reduce your use of plastics is always a good idea. This can be as easy as recycling, but another good option is buying drinks on tap instead of bottled. From a simple bottle of water to your favorite soda, getting drinks on tap when ordering out or filtering your tap water to drink will reduce the numbers of plastic bottles you use and that could end up in the ocean.

FROM CONSUMER TO GARDENER

The less your food has to travel, the less carbon emissions are made. And if the travel effort is from your kitchen to your backyard…well, it doesn’t get any better than that! You don’t need massive equipment or a huge amount of space to start a container garden at home. Even if you have a small herb garden, this is one less product that needs to travel from miles away to get to your dinner table. Below is one fun way to grow your own bell pepper plant!


Do you have a bell pepper you’re going to use for lunch? Take the seeds from inside, put them inside a damp paper towel, put the paper towel with seeds in a sealed bag, and leave it on top of your fridge for a few weeks. Check on it periodically and dampen the paper when needed, and soon you will have sprouts! Once you have sprouts, you can plant them in some soil to have your own bell pepper plant!

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