Climate change is such an overwhelming problem it’s hard to know what individuals can do about it. It’s hard to see how we can have any impact at all. But there are meaningful steps we can take to both modify our own choices and actions, and to advocate for change by businesses and governments.
The Climate Diet: 50 Simple Ways to Trim Your Carbon Footprint, by environmental writer Paul Greenberg, is a slim little book you can easily read in under two hours. It contains, yes, fifty suggestions for actions we can take to reduce the carbon footprint of various aspects of our lives including the food we eat and drink, how we heat and cool our homes, how we get around and how we act as citizens, investors, and voters.
The Climate Diet
By Paul Greenberg
Penguin Books, New York, 2021
Many of the suggestions are well-known: eat less meat, buy an EV if you can afford one, install a heat pump in your home, fly less. They echo some of the recommendations Bill Gates makes in his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster which I reviewed here.
Greenberg backs up many of them with useful data. There’s a chart comparing the CO2 emissions per kilogram production of various kinds of foods. Not surprisingly, lamb and beef production cause the highest emissions per kilogram while production of yogurt, tomatoes and lentils emits very little CO2. You can find similar charts at Our World in Data. Another tidbit: carrots provide the most nutrients for the least amount of carbon emissions of any food.
Individual action is necessary but not sufficient. We need to make systemic changes too. The last section of the book provides suggestions for how to be a more effective advocate for the environment.
Greenberg also includes a useful list of resources and web sites at the end of the book.
My main criticism of The Climate Diet is that the physical book is not exactly a model of efficient resource utilization. The book is only 156 pages, cover to cover, but it could have been even thinner. Each of the 50 suggestions starts on an odd-numbered, right-hand page. But over half of them are only a paragraph or two long, so the next page is left blank. Twenty-five to thirty blank pages is really wasteful especially for a book about the environment. If you decide to buy it, please consider getting an electronic copy.