The world is on fire. Literally. Climate change is happening all around us and is increasing at ever more alarming rates. In the U.S., there have been three 1,000-year floods just this past summer, wreaking devastation on communities from Kentucky to Louisiana to California, while in other parts of the country there are epic droughts that threaten our way of life by drying up some of our most important rivers. Unfortunately, the reality is that we continue to emit more C02 than ever before, which further intensifies conditions globally.
On top of this, there seems to be an insatiable demand for more and more as our consumption patterns across the board continue to increase relentlessly.
So whether you believe in climate change or not, this is just becoming a math equation. Resources are going down, while population and consumption are going up.
What I have realized though over the past 12 years pioneering environmental movements in energy, indoor ag, consumer products, and food waste is that we need environmental realism. We need the understanding as an environmental community that the current systems are way too big to think we can all just transition to one single solution. For example, plant-based proteins are great, but they are a small fraction of the market. Not even considering beef, turkey, eggs, and other proteins, we consume ~9 billion chickens per year, and that is growing at ~6% YOY. That means we consume 173 million chickens – nearly one billion pounds – per week, a level of demand that won’t go away overnight or potentially ever.
Viewing this through a global lens, we need to provide consumers a lot of options that are more environmentally progressive. Let's face it, any environmentalist knows we don’t have much time, and the reality is that we won’t change habits quick enough. Those that are worried about the future will spend their time fighting each other as to the “perfect” system, one based upon a disregard for really understanding the food system as a whole. We need to all support each other, and we need to reduce consumption and scale all alternatives – but we also need to understand the magnitude of our existing systems, for better or worse, and look for ways to improve them together.
My strong belief is that we need to use a consumerism model to fuel the biggest and quickest environmental solves. Consumers care, corporations are starting to care, and as sustainability leaders, we need to provide products that engage consumers to be a part of the solution without changing their habits. We can do this by providing a growing population with products that they know and love that now have a net positive impact on the world. If we do it right, this will incentivize farmers, suppliers, corporations, and consumers to all participate in the solution. And if done economically, it will happen amazingly quick. At the end of the day, the way to have the greatest impact in the world is to create the best economics.
That is why regenerative agriculture products such as Just Salad’s regen-based quinoa – which is now giving consumers a chance to enjoy a delicious product that empowers farmers to improve their soil health – can help us all. By simply choosing this quinoa, consumers can support a better, healthier way to farm.
That is why seaweed-based products like Loliware are critical, as they can sequester C02 by simply being grown. In fact, a single large seaweed farm can sequester more CO2 in a year than all direct air capture units currently operational in the world. We need the seaweed-based economy to grow!
And that's why our brand Do Good Chicken, launched in April 2022, is offering chicken where each chicken saves four pounds of surplus grocery food, thus reducing three pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. This is one of the first-ever quantifiable carbon equations in real animal-based proteins, and it is completely revolutionary.
Our goal is to fight food waste, which is one of the most solvable climate change problems we have. We pioneered a $170M first-of-its-kind facility that can upcycle 160 tons of surplus grocery food everyday into a dried chicken feed. This is food we collect after donations can occur, and once this feed is used to grow Do Good Chicken – real chicken – we then have a quantifiable equation demonstrating how each chicken now has a real, tangible, positive impact. Could you imagine eating a delicious chicken sandwich at your favorite restaurant and now knowing that you just saved pounds of food from being wasted and pounds of GHG emissions? In fact, if one out of every five pounds of chicken we ate was a Do Good Chicken, we could solve food waste nationally!
These solutions are what I believe can empower us all to be on this mission together. To recognize there is not a single solution and to work together to scale all climate-friendly products. I look forward to the continued expansion of this concept, where we can recognize that consumers will keep doing exactly that – consuming products at ridiculous rates. It is now up to us environmentalists to use that to our benefit – creating environmentally progressive products that turn consumerism on its head. To get to the equation where the quicker consumers consume, the quicker we solve our environmental problems. The flywheel for good!
The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect ReFED's views and opinions.