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Cutting carbon from your diet: a practical guide

Cookbook author and food writer Mark Bittman offers up some practical advice on reducing your meat consumption, which, you may recall, is probably the most effective way to cut the carbon footprint of your diet.

Fans of Bittman (I am among them) may have noticed a tidy compatibility between Bittman’s food writing and Michael Pollan’s more polemical work on food and eating. Pollan in some sense is laying the intellectual groundwork and penning the manifesto. Bittman is providing the operating manual.

But this makes it all sound a bit joyless. I like Bittman because his recipes are simple and tend to work. They also favor improvisation, with every dish spawning variants depending on taste or season. Although Bittman, like Pollan, is no vegetarian, his cooking style is generally “veg-friendly.”

This is, apparently, no accident. Bittman gave a TED talk earlier this year that distills a lot of Pollan’s points into a highly watchable 20-minute video (see below). Now he follows up with an article in the Times on ways for meat eaters who aren’t interesting in abandoning flesh altogether to at least manage their intake a bit more thoughtfully.

The tips aren’t all that surprising. Just solid good sense. Buy less meat. Stop making protein the center of the plate. Learn some new recipes. Etc. (And check out the reader advice.) I’ve been on a similar regimen since making a New Year’s resolution to reduce the meat in my diet. So far, so good.

One tip that I might add: prepare more of your own food. This advice is sort of implicit in Bittman’s column. He generally offers cooking advice, so it’s fair to assume that most of his readers either cook or aspire to. I’m not sure how true this is of Americans generally, though, so the biggest behavioral adjustment for many of us might be simply figuring out how the stove works.

And here’s the video:

Take the first step.

Start small. Be conscious of the impact your actions have on the environment and figure out what you can do to lessen the blow. Calculate, conserve, and offset.

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