Playing with your Food can Reduce Your Carbon Impact
By Devon M. Whalen, co-founder of Green Whale

The impact of the food industry on the climate has been a hot topic lately, as the food industry produces more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry! Whether it’s from this realization or from another factor, today’s statistics indicate that a growing number of individuals are adopting more eco-conscious diets.  In the US, the number of vegans has increased more than 500% since 2014, from 1% of the population to 6% of the population. Vegans exclude all animal products from their diet and do not buy products made from animals or tested on animals.  But not everyone is ready to make the leap from their current diet to a vegan one, as consuming meat is a part of the social norm in many regions, including the US, Europe, and China. The family behind Green Whale, LLC was in exactly this place in their eco-conscious journey less than a year ago.  They were conditioned to believe that meals, especially dinner, had to include meat. But as they became more aware of their diet’s impact on the climate, they knew they had to make a change.

Devon Whalen, one of the business’s co-founders and the mom of the family, realized that cutting out meat all together wasn’t something the family was ready to do at the time—if ever! That didn’t stop her from continuing to research the impact of the food industry and search for a way to make a difference.  Enter Reduceatarianism.  A Reduceatarian diet, as coined by author Brian Kateman, is any diet that focuses on reducing the consumption of animal products. Reduceatarians include vegans (no animal products), vegetarians (no meat), flexitarians (small amounts of meat), and semi-vegetarians (some meat).  Now, this concept was one Devon could get behind. But how does one decide how to go about reducing meat consumption? And is there more to reducing the environmental impact of your diet than just reducing meat consumption? Those very questions led Devon to create a gamified system called Play Your PlateTM to help the average person reduce the environmental impact of their diet. 

An example of how we use the Play Your Plate system to make simple substitutions to reduce our carbon impact.

Play Your PlateTM focuses largely, though not entirely, on the reduction of carbon impact from one’s diet. The gamified system uses cards to simplify the data involved in determining environmental impact. Each meal/snack results in a score from the cards.  The system encourages the tracking of foods and scores to develop a baseline score during the first week.  Subsequent weeks challenge the user to slowly reduce their scores, thereby reducing their environmental impact.  By including gaming elements, Play Your PlateTM creates competition and encourages users to “play” with their food choices and preparation.  A private Facebook group also offers Play Your PlateTM users the chance to connect with others and create a little friendly competition with a lot of support from Game Creator, Devon Whalen.  Who knew playing with your food could be so fun AND good for the environment?! But it’s not just about having fun.  The system’s emphasis on slow, progressive change, rather than a drastic change, is key to its success. It’s much easier to sustain the new diet if it’s adopted gradually. 

For those who aren’t quite ready to invest in the system or who are a bit worried about the change, Green Whale, LLC offers a FREE 5-Day Eco Taste challenge hosted on social media. This challenge introduces bite-sized ways to reduce impact through a flexible, BINGO-style game that offers many ways to “win.”  Registering for the challenge early, also gives registrants additional free material in the challenge group and an opportunity to prepare properly by adjusting meal planning or grocery shopping to accommodate for the Eco Taste challenge. 

Sample of Play Your Plate cards used to score a meal.

Ultimately, Green Whale, LLC hopes to reach individuals who are considering adopting a more eco-friendly diet, but may need a little support along the way.  The goal is to create a community of individuals that can support one another on the journey toward a more eco-conscious lifestyle through reduceatarianism. The more individuals who join Green Whale, LLC on their journey by making small changes, the greater the overall impact can be! They may be a small, family-owned business, but they have big dreams of taking a big bite out of the food industry’s impact.

Play Your Plate helps me be mindful about meal planning

1Bourassa, L. (2021). Vegan and Plant-Based Diet Statistics for 2021. Plant Proteins, Co. 

2Godfray, H. C. J., Aveyard, P., Garnett, T., Hall, J. W., Key, T. J., Lorimer, J., … & Jebb, S. A. (2018). Meat consumption, health, and the environment. Science361(6399).

3Stiehl, Christina. (2018). What is a Reduceatarian? The New Way of Eating You Need to Know. PopSugar. 

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