Climatarian Challenge FAQs

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Meal Entry

Climatarian Challenge banners_portion sizeWhat exactly do the portion sizes represent?
The portion sizes actually refer to the size of the portion of meat in the meal and not the meal itself. For example, a large salad with only a few pieces of chicken would be selected as a small chicken meal.

How many grams are in each portion?
Check out the table below to better understand the precise portion sizes for each type of meat as measured in grams. We have also included some examples to give you a better idea of what this represents in real life, because not everyone turns up at restaurants or dinner parties armed with a scale.

Types of Meat Small (g) Medium (g) Large (g)
Beef 65 182.5 300
Lamb 65 182.5 300
Pork 65 182.5 300
Chicken 80 190 300
Eggs 120 210 300
Fish 100 200 300

Examples

It’s a bit tricky to provide examples for all of the above combinations but generally, as a rule of thumb most restaurants and especially pubs serve large portions (especially in Australia). Steaks are easy since their weight is usually marked in the menu description, (ie. 300g rump steak) but meals where meat is just one of the ingredients, such as a stir fry, can be more difficult to work out. Unless it looks like a particularly small portion of meat then go for medium or large - we trust your estimates. Remember that the focus of this challenge is not on 100% accuracy but rather learning about the relative carbon footprints of our various food choices.

At home it’s easy since you know exactly how much meat you purchased from your butcher or the supermarket. Eggs vary a lot in terms of size but generally a small portion is 2 eggs, medium is 3 and large is 4 eggs.

Climatarian Challenge banners_general meal questionWhat if my meal contains two or more types of meat?
If this is the case, simply select whichever has the higher carbon footprint based on both the type of meat and the portion size. Take a look at the bar chart below to see how the different meats rank in terms of their carbon footprint.

Food carbon footprint graph-01

Climatarian Challenge banners_What happens if i forget to put in a mealWhat happens if i forget to put in a meal?
We get it, sometimes there are other things more important than sitting on your phone putting in your meals for the day in The Climatarian Challenge app.

If you have been slacking off (or too busy) and forget to put in a meal, don’t sweat. We will initially send you a friendly reminder about the meal that you missed. If you did actually skip that meal then press the ‘skip meal’ button.

If we still haven’t heard from you, we can do it for you if you choose to ignore the second reminder. We do this by calculating the average carbon points from your previous meals, such as all of your lunches to date if the missing meal is lunch, and then subtract it from your carbon budget.

Climatarian Challenge banners_What happens if i forget to put in a mealWhat if I skipped/missed a meal?
If you’ve had a busy day, or slept in longer than usual for that matter, and you skipped a meal, simply press the ‘skipped meal’ button. That way we still know you remember us and won’t hassle you with any reminders about missing meals.

Health

Climatarian Challenge banners_general meal questionWhere can I get my iron from if I reduce to 1 serving of red meat per week?
It isn’t difficult to get all the iron you need on a low or zero-red-meat diet. There are many good plant-based sources of iron which include:

  • Legumes: lentils, soybeans, tofu, tempeh, lima beans
  • Grains: quinoa, fortified cereals, brown rice, oatmeal
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin, squash, pine, pistachios, sunflower, cashews, unhulled sesame
  • Vegetables: tomato sauce, swiss chard, collard greens,
  • Other: blackstrap molasses, prune juice

Consuming plant-based sources of iron with foods rich in vitamin C can increase absorption by up to five times.

You should also try to avoid drinking tea and coffee with meals containing ingredients high in iron as the tannins can interfere with iron absorption.

Even simply using a cast iron skillet to cook your food can increase the amount of iron in the meals!

When selecting your beef and lamb meal for the week we recommend opting for a grass-fed option for all of the reasons listed on the ‘Free Range Restaurants’ page but in particular for their higher omega-3 content.

Chicken liver has the highest iron content of any meat - 3 times that of beef. You can learn more about the relative iron content of various plant and animal sources of iron here.

Other Food Types

Climatarian Challenge banners_general meal questionWhat about other types of meat like horse and venison?
There is not enough reliable research for us to give you a carbon footprint we are comfortable with for less common types of meat such as horse and venison. That being said, ‘game’ sources of meat are generally not farmed and hence do not require deforestation if harvested from the wild. Horses, in particular, are not a ruminant animal and hence do not produce methane as part of their digestion process. If you do eat ‘game’ meat we recommend recording it in the app as a chicken meal.

Climatarian Challenge banners_what about diaryWhat about dairy?
While the health benefits of consuming dairy products is debatable, the source of the dairy products remains obvious. Unless you happen to be producing some very niche milk products from non-traditional animals such as horses like the Mongolians do, when most people say ‘milk’ they mean cow milk.

From a carbon footprint perspective, not all dairy is equal. Milk has a similar carbon footprint to that of soy clocking in at 1.9 kg of carbon (190 carbon points) per litre. The dairy with all the culture - yoghurt, is slightly higher at 2.2 kg of carbon (220 carbon points) per liter. The crowd favourite and weakness of vegans the world over, cheese, clocks in at the highest of all, a whopping 13.5 kgs of carbon (1,350 carbon points) per kilogram. So that chicken or vegetarian pizza may not be so climate-friendly after all. We recommend selecting grass-fed cheese used sparingly and hence enjoyed in moderation.

Carbon Emissions

Climatarian Challenge banners_What about transport emissionsWhat about transport emissions?
Post-farm emissions including transport, refrigeration and processing account for only 3% of total life-cycle emissions. This means that meat sourced from down the road has much the same carbon footprint as meat that has travelled from the other side of the world - hard to believe but true!

While we absolutely advocate eating locally-produced, free-range, grass-fed organic meat where possible, for the purpose of The Climatarian Challenge there is no difference in the carbon footprint/carbon points it will cost you. You can just select the type of meat and portion size as per usual.

If you are interested in reading more about the impact of transport on the overall carbon footprint of various types of meat and vegetables we recommend taking a look at the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change and Health.

The emissions data used throughout The Climatarian Challenge app comes directly from the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM) developed within the Animal Production and Health Division of the United Nations Farming and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO). It is based on Life Cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies. It includes upstream, on farm and downstream impacts to quantify the total greenhouse gas emissions related to livestock sector supply chains.

Climatarian Challenge banners_general meal questionWhy are beef and lamb so bad for the climate?
It largely comes down to two factors - methane and land use. Cows and sheep burp methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent at warming the climate than carbon dioxide. How rude!

In terms of land use, Livestock agriculture occupies 45% of the world’s ice-free land and the majority of this land is used up by cows and sheep. When you consider that meat demand is set to double by 2050 according to the UN, this is not only a ticking time-bomb for our climate but for our ability to sustain economic growth. Our climate and our economies are becoming inextricably linked, so that like a stalling aeroplane, our ability to grow and sustain these economies will be dictated not by our politicians nor our banks but by the weather itself.

New land required to meet demand has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is forests. Trees absorb a third of the carbon we emit every year and when we cut them down they not only release all of that stored carbon back into the atmosphere but also stop providing us with that free service of carbon absorption. Climate change aside for a moment - they also provide us with oxygen!

This multiplying effect on climate change is absolutely reversible but we need to start by actually reversing the trend in demand. So by eating less meat and in particular, red meat, as well as planting (or at least curbing the destruction of) trees you really will be helping to limit GHG levels.

Climatarian Challenge banners_dictWhy are cows and sheep called ruminants?
Cows and sheep are ruminants, which does not mean they sit and ruminate about the meaning of life. Ruminant animals have a little colony of bacteria in their gut (their rumen) which feast on the chewed-up vegetation, breed like crazy, die out and in turn get digested by the cows and sheep themselves. So does this make cows and sheep carnivores? Perhaps, but the main point here is that during this process the colony of bacteria produce methane which is burped out by the ruminant animals.

Methane, which you have probably heard people make jokes about, is 86 times more potent at warming the climate than carbon dioxide. So aside from all the other ways, animal agriculture contributes to climate change, ruminant animals in particular, produce a large quantity of heat-trapping gas.

Climatarian Challenge banners_What does vegetarian calculate forWhat does the vegetarian button calculate for?
A vegetarian meal counts for the same amount of carbon points as soy. This is the plant-based ingredient that has the highest carbon footprint of all plant-based ingredients so if your meal is plant-based then it likely has an even smaller footprint. Either way put it in as a veggie meal and bask in your own success while acing The Climatarian Challenge!
Climatarian Challenge banners_What does carbon points meanWhat do carbon points mean?
When you enrol in The Climatarian Challenge you begin with a budget of 8000 carbon points (80 kilograms of carbon) for the month. This is approximately half of the carbon points per person on a typical western diet.

100 carbon point equals 1 gram of carbon dioxide equivalent (carbon) emissions. The Guardian has a great explanation of what carbon dioxide equivalent is here.

So if you would like to indulge in a 300g beef steak, you would have spent a whopping 1900 carbon points - that’s almost a quarter of your entire budget!

Better save the beef steaks for special occasions.

Climatarian Challenge banners_dictWhere do you get your emissions data from?
The emissions data used throughout The Climatarian Challenge app comes directly from the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM) developed within the Animal Production and Health Division of the United Nations Farming and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO). It is based on Life Cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies. It includes upstream (various inputs such as grain feed), on farm and downstream (such as transport and refrigeration) emissions to quantify the total greenhouse gas emissions related to livestock sector supply chains.

Since this app will be used worldwide we have used the global averages which are actually lower than the Australian average since a smaller proportion of our livestock are finished on grain in feedlots compared to the global average.

Other Issues

Climatarian Challenge banners_What about animal rightsWhat about animal rights?
Let it be clear that we are firmly against the cruel treatment of animals in the factory farming system. As you know our primary focus is towards a stable climate for current and future generations by avoiding runaway climate change. That being said we do encourage you to understand the compassionate footprint of your food and engage with other organisations that advocate for animal rights and bravely fight against factory farming. We think that together we can work towards a safer and more compassionate world from both a climate perspective and an animal rights perspective.

If you are based in Australia we recommend checking out the work of our friends at Animals Australia and Voiceless. For those of you living outside of Australia, we recommend checking out the work of our friends at Humane Society International. There are also many local groups wherever you are, such as our early supporters at Toronto Pig Save.

Taking the Challenge

Climatarian Challenge banners_What does vegetarian calculate forIf I’m already a vegetarian or vegan or somewhere in between, is the challenge redundant?
If you are vegetarian or vegan then yes, you will likely find The Climatarian Challenge far too easy and likely boring while you repeatedly alternate between the eggs and veggie buttons (or only the latter if you are vegan). Hence we recommend reaching out to your meat-eating friends with a refreshingly different message than ‘stop eating meat’ and get them onboard with the challenge. We are confident they will find it fun,educational and approachable. Trust us - they will be far more receptive to this message and The Climatarian Challenge than telling them to stop eating meat. Plus this will give you an opportunity to teach them how to cook quick and easy vegetarian meals so they can ace the challenge!
Climatarian Challenge banners_What does carbon points meanBut what if I really like burgers and steaks?
Then enjoy them - we are not Al Gore looking over your shoulder! Being a climatarian doesn’t mean not enjoying meat. It means purchasing the highest quality free-range meat you can afford and savouring those meals.