What is the Fork Ranger approach?

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.

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Frank Holleman | 07-01-2021

1) Pragmatic: You don’t have to become vegetarian

We started Fork Ranger to do something about climate change and food is where individuals can really make a difference.

Unfortunately, food is a complicated topic where nothing is black and white. So It’s not about banning certain foods but about restoring the balance: nuts and beans as the main source of protein and meat and dairy as luxury products.

You don’t have to become a vegetarian to be a Fork Ranger.

Overall, there are three important steps to make the average Western diet more sustainable.

  • Less meat and dairy, especially beef 
  • Less food waste 
  • More nuts and legumes 

While food has a massive impact, our goal shouldn’t be to reduce our footprint to zero. Because we have to eat something! Once you follow the basic principles, don’t stress too much about the impact of every single product.

It always comes back to this quote from Michael Pollan:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

2) Numbers-based with the big picture in mind

Making the right food choices is hard. For example, what if nuts have a very low CO2 footprint compared to meat but use a lot more water?

To navigate all this complexity we need a compass that points us in the right direction.

And the direction we want to go is feeding a growing world population with healthy food and also solve climate change.

In the EAT-Lancet report, 37 world-leading scientists joined forces to create such a compass. They summarised all the negative impacts of the food system into five categories:

  • Greenhouse gases
  • Freshwater use
  • Cropland use
  • Pollution from fertiliser
  • Biodiversity loss

Then they calculated various scenarios. What would happen if we improve farming practices? If we reduce food waste? If we change our diets?

Their research shows that only diet changes made a big difference for greenhouse gases, while better farming is necessary to solve the other problems.

When it comes to greenhouse gases, it’s more important what we eat than how something is produced.

The EAT-Lancet report is not perfect but it has shown us two important conclusions

  1. We cannot solve the food problems without changing our diets
  2. Greenhouse gases are the most significant metric for our diets

This is why Fork Ranger uses CO2-e as the most important number.

(CO2-e stands for CO2 equivalent. It’s a formula for calculating the total greenhouse effect by transforming other gases like methane into CO2).

At the same time, we don’t just look at the numbers but also at the bigger picture. For example, there are many issues that don’t have numbers, such as fair trade or our attitude towards food.

Sometimes we are overloaded with information and become paralysed. And the one thing we cannot afford is to stand still. In these dilemmas we use the numbers to give practical advice and check it against the bigger picture: would this make sense in a sustainable food system? Does it contribute to positive change?

So coming back to the question about nuts, we can conclude that while some nuts use a lot of water, on average it’s still a better option than eating meat.

The best way to find out more about our big picture vision is to read the Fork Ranger book.

3) As easy as possible

Even when the solution is relatively simple (eat less meat), it doesn’t meant it’s easy. That’s why we do our best to create advice and recipes that are easy to follow.

We put a lot of effort into designing the recipes, from the ingredients to the layout. Instead of overwhelming you with recipes, we only give you four options.

Maybe a certain product is super healthy and sustainable, but if it’s expensive, hard to find, or difficult to prepare, we will leave it out.

If you ever experience something that feels hard, please let us know. We would love to find an easier solution.

Our compass

On this page we have summarised our findings to give you some guidelines.