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Compass for eating sustainably

Everyone is on a journey with eating sustainably, which is a complicated topic where nothing is black and white. So instead of a map to a perfect food system, Fork Ranger is a compass for heading into the right direction.

Our compass is divided into 5 levels:

Very High Impact

High Impact

Medium Impact

Low Impact

Very Low Impact

Very High Impact

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Less beef

Replacing beef with chicken or pork can already reduce the impact of your food by a fifth.

High Impact

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Less food waste

One third of all food is wasted and in Western countries a large part of this happens in our own kitchens. Paying attention to food waste not only saves land but also helps us appreciate how valuable food is.

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Talk to friends

If you can convince one other person to eat less beef that makes a bigger difference than all other actions.

Medium Impact

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Less pork

Pork as an alternative to beef is fine but watch the amounts. Since pork has a strong flavour you can use very little of it (e.g. 100g of bacon for 4 people), which saves emissions.

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Less fish

Especially shrimp, tuna and salmon have a high impact. You can choose smaller fish like sardines or herring but the best seafood options are mussels, oysters and seaweed.

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Less dairy

Dairy products have roughly the same impact as chicken. A lot of people replace meat with dairy, so it's important to pay attention to dairy products, especially when you eat cheese every day.

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More nuts, legumes, and whole grains

When we eat less meat we have to get protein from other sources. Nuts, beans, lentils, seeds and whole-grain products are all healthy sources of protein.

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More organic

Organic products not only support better farming but also save CO2 by protecting the soil. Choosing the organic option seems most important for bread, bananas, apples and any animal products.

Low Impact

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Less chicken & eggs

Even though chicken has the lowest footprint from all meat - and eggs are even lower - a sustainable pattern seems to be to eating (organic) chicken once to twice a week.

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More seasonal

Eating with the seasons is not straightforward and requires a lot of research to get it right. What is most important is avoiding the small minority of products that come by air.

Very Low Impact

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More local

The biggest impact of a product is usually growing it, while transport is generally a very small part of a product's emissions. While supporting local farmers is great, the concept of 'food miles' is not something to worry about.

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Better packaging

Packaging is the most visible part of a food product but often it's also one of the smallest impacts. Sometimes, plastic packaging even helps to prevent food waste.

Notes and sources

This is a summary for sustainable eating. A priority list for sustainable farming would look completely different. This is not a roadmap to a perfect food system but a guideline for reducing the worst effects of our food choices.

 

We’ve tried to take a holistic approach to food but this list is biased towards greenhouse gas emissions. That’s not because we care more about greenhouse gases than biodiversity, but because that’s where our consumer choices matter most (read more).

 

This list is the result of the research for the Fork Ranger book, which includes the full list of sources and explanations.

 

There is lots of room for debate whether some actions should have higher or lower priority. But the overall conclusion is very clear: we have to eat fewer animal products.

Last updated on July 7th, 2021