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Saturday, November 8, 2008


Ecotarian is a term that refers to the process of selecting food with consideration for all of the various ecological factors plus energy used to produce the food. The goal is to eat in a sustainable way. Sustainability itself is a tricky concept, as there is no end goal to focus on, but rather it is an aim to reduce our environmental impact, our ecological footprint.

"Ecotarian" means a diet that is based on "eating your environment," just as "vegetarian" refers to "eating vegetables." The principles upon which the ecotarian diet is based are discussed below.

Properties of Ecotarian Food


Food that is grown organically is better for the health of the individual consumer and for the health of the overall environment in which the food is grown. The use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals and hormones (such as recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBGH) in the production of food causes disease in humans and in the animals to which these chemicals are applied (citation needed).

Locally Grown

Ecotarian embraces the idea of reducing the distance between where food is produced, and where food is consumed (see also food miles). There are several key aspects for "eating local". 1. Transportation of food is the second largest source of demand for petroleum based fuel in the world (citation needed; number one is transporting people). 2. Cutting down on food miles is crucial for developing a relationship with one's food. As long as we continue to buy food from supermarkets, we are doomed to lives without understanding where our food comes from, the processes involved, and what our consumption does to the environment in which it is grown. Eating locally provides one the ability to understand where the food comes from and the conditions in which it is grown. If more people had this close of a relationship with their food and its growers, it is unlikely that any farm today would be using synthetic chemicals or monoculture practices.

Food can be grown organically but still shipped from across the country or across the world -- this does not fit the ecotarian diet or mindset. This unnecessary fossil fuel use only contributes further to pollution, global warming, and depletion of non-renewable resources.

Fair Trade

Ecotarians likely also consider the impact of their food purchases on the growers of their food, particularly if the commodity is among one of the many tropical products whose industries may be known for labor, environmental or price abuses in developing nations (e.g. cocoa, coffee).


Nutrient intake

Balanced can mean "eating a balanced diet" with all of the appropriate food groups. Eating is crucial for maintaining human health, so it is a key consideration for an ecotarian diet.

Eating Meat Coexisting With Vegetarianism

Balanced also refers to the idea that an ecotarian's diet need not necessarily be entirely vegetarian. However, should the ecotarian decide to eat meat, it is necessary that two conditions be met:

1. That the meat be consumed in condiment- or side dish-sized portions. The production of meat is tragically inefficient, with one pound of meat requiring over 1,000 gallons of water to produce, not to mention any fossil fuel inputs above and beyond what would be input for crop production.[citation needed] Furthermore, a large percentage of the country's corn goes not to feed people, but to feed animals that eventually will feed people, which results in a massive chemical potential (food) energy waste.[citation needed]
2. That the animals the meat comes from be locally raised, organically fed, and treated very humanely.

An ecotarian may, of course, choose to be a complete vegetarian or vegan. Among ecotarians, there should be no judgment on any person for their choice of specific diet. Meat-eating ecotarians should take special care to ensure their environmental impact is not more than only slightly increased through their consumption choices.


Ecotarian was coined by a small group of friends in graduate school, all with an interest in food politics, at Oxford University in 2006. There has been no formal proposal of the term, except here and in blogs.

The term was coined independently in 2008 by Scott Stokoe, manager of the Dartmouth College Organic Farm, in a discussion with an undergraduate on March 13, 2008 in Dartmouth's Collis Café.


The ecotarian movement stresses the need to reduce unnecessary human-caused environmental degradation, and form a relationship with one's environment through an understanding of and a deeper connection with one's food. While conservation of land is looked upon as beneficial, ecotarians need to foster a relationship and attempt to coexist with the environment and in the environment.

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