On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama took to the stage to deliver his first speech outside the United States since leaving office at the Seed & Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan, Italy. Seed & Chips is an annual gathering of global entrepreneurs, investors, and executives who are focused on exploring innovation, trends, and solutions in the food system.

As part of a larger speech, Obama discussed the relationship between our food and climate change. Bizpac Review reported that the former President revealed he does not “believe that this planet is condemned to ever-rising temperatures. I believe these are problems that were caused by man and can be solved by man.” What does the former president believe that the solution is? Eating less meat. Or, as Obama put it, “have a smaller steak.”

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Apart from rising ocean levels, Obama addressed another emerging issue sparked by climate change: food shortage. According to The New York Times, Obama said, “Our changing climate is already making it more difficult to produce food. We’ve already seen shrinking yields and rising food prices.” With this, he highlighted how the poor and underprivileged will be the first to suffer from a lack of food security.

While several countries, the United States included, have signed on to The Paris Agreement, in which nations will be asked to commit to reducing their carbon footprint, Obama believes that it is ultimately up to the individual to enact change: “When we think about issues like food security or climate change, ultimately politicians can help guide policy, but the energy to bring about change is going to come from what people do every day,” he shared at the Summit. “It’s going to come from parents who are concerned about the impact climate change may have on their child, from business people who say how can we use less energy or waste less resources in making our products. It’s millions of decisions made individually that have the ability to make changes.”

Considering that the current administration of the United States is primarily comprised of climate change skeptics, it is encouraging to have a leader like Obama empower the individual. However, Obama isn’t without empathy for the difficulties encountered by many when facing a lifestyle change such as reducing or cutting out meat altogether.

“Because food is so close to us and is part of our family and is part of what we do every single day, people, I think, are more resistant to the idea of government or bureaucrats telling them what to eat, how to eat and how to grow,” he stated.

Ultimately, when it comes to the fight against climate change, we cannot wait for food policy to change — and thankfully, it is easier than ever before to start making planet-friendly changes to your diet, thanks to new innovations and better availability of plant-based meat options.

If we look at trends related to meat consumption in the United States, we can see that it is the consumers, not the policy makers, who are largely driving trends such as reduced meat consumption. According to a recent report by the Natural Resource Defense Council, Americans shrunk their diet-related carbon footprint by 10 percent between 2005 and 2014 simply by eating less beef and at least 26 percent of consumers identify as flexitarian, or those who try to eat less meat.

The food space has seen some rapid changes in a short amount of time. While 10 years ago, most dedicated meat-eaters would wrinkle their nose at the idea of plant-based meat, more people than ever are now embracing it than ever before. According to a 2017 Protein Alternatives Report from global market research firm Mintel, 36 percent of Millennials have tried based meats and 64 percent have specifically tried meatless burgers.

Although the consumption of meat is on the rise in developing nations, Obama addressed that, calling this “a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs, businesses, scientists, and thought leaders to make progress in an area where we have not made as much progress.”

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To us, it sounds like the former president is suggesting that now is the time for innovators in the food space to help other nations embrace the plant-based future of food — and that’s the kind of change that we can get behind.

How YOU Can Make a Difference

You can start eating for the planet by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)

You can #EatForThePlanet starting today. Just follow the three simple steps below.

1. Replace: Try to swap animal-based products in your daily diet with vegan alternatives (milk, butter, mayo, cheese, grilled chicken, beef crumbles, sausages, cold cuts, etc.)
2. Embrace: Add plant-based whole foods (local and organic when possible) to your diet like greens, fresh fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, plant proteins like lentils, nuts/seeds, beans, tofu, etc.
3. Moderate: Limit consumption of your favorite meats like beef, lamb, pork, etc.

“The #EatForThePlanet Way is not about restricting your diet, but about changing the way you think about your food choices,” says Zacharias. “When you Eat for the Planet, you make the conscious decision to reduce your negative impact on the world around you.”

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We all have the power to create a better future for our children, and the countless animals we share the planet with, by making one easy swap. If you’re ready to start doing this in your own life, check out One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign. 

Lead image source: Gregory Reed/Shutterstock