Status update on 2016’s two new challenges

I haven’t written very much lately on this blog but I figure since I’ve reading blogs about aspirations is not that exciting in January, why not postpone it to March!

Challenge No. 1: Red meat max twice a month

A friend of mine from university challenged me to the ‘red meat challenge’ in January, together with a few other friends of hers. I had already reduced my red meat consumption to probably about 25% of the average in the previous years, but now it was going a step further. The challenge has many complicated rules and exceptions but in short it goes like this.

  • Max 2 portions of red meat per month
  • Red meat includes pork (because calling it white meat is just marketing from the pork industry).
  • Cannot purchase red meat myself (this allows for me to have it at a friends dinner party for example – but still no more than twice a month).
  • Poultry and fish are excluded

Why? Well, the impact of diets containing red meat are considerably higher than others. And since this is really just dipping my toe in the water of alternative diets, then it’s not a huge challenge (maybe pescatarianism is next).

How much higher? I found an open source publication addressing exactly this based on real diets in the UK. The end results (in kg CO2 equivalent/2000kCal diet/day):

  1. Veganism: 2.89
  2. Vegetarianism: 3.81
  3. Pescatarianism (vegetarian plus seafood): 3.91
  4. Low meat diet (<50g/day): 4.67
  5. Medium/average meat diet (50-99g/day): 5.63
  6. High meat diet (>100g/day): 7.19

And where is my restricted red meat diet? Probably somewhere between pescatarianism and the low meat diet (since I still eat some lower impact meats like chicken once or twice a week).

One thing that I mentioned to my friend who challenged me though is that we should also try to avoid high impact seafood or unethically farmed poultry. There exists a number of guides for this purpose. The WWF makes guides for many European countries, here is the one for Norway and here is the one for Sweden. Monterrey Bay Aquarium in the US makes a similar, probably better guide for eating sustainable seafood. On the poultry side of things, here there is good labeling and regulations to explain what is free-range, barn-farmed or cage farmed. Unfortunately whilst Norway has free range eggs readily available, the choice of free range poultry is considerably smaller, so I have to pick and choose my shops if I want to buy happy chickens.

And the results up until March indicate that I’m on track. I’ve consumed 5 meals containing red meat this year and its turning out to be pretty easy. I’m getting better at using legumes in my daily cooking too, so it seems like a pretty straightforward task to cut back a couple of kilos of emissions from daily life.

Challenge No. 2: Buy max 1 new thing per month (or 12 things in a year)

I made this challenge. And I’ve tried to subsequently get a few others on board too.

Why? The challenge is to avoid overconsumption, which is a MAJOR contributor to our emissions issues. I’m not saying there should be a complete ban on shopping, as some bloggers have tried before (which, [spoiler alert] is very hard). Through this challenge I’m still allowing for the fact that since I’m in my 20s still and haven’t lived in any one location for more than 1 year since moving out of my parent’s home then I haven’t hoarded up all of the things I need until I die.

The basic groundrules are such:

  • No more than 12 new things in the year
  • This includes things both for personal use or as gifts to others (so start to think about experience-based gifts like cinema tickets instead)
  • Buying secondhand/used is not restricted – as even though these may not be long-lasting goods, the act of purchasing secondhand is keeping more items in the circular economy rather than contributing to the production of a new good


  • Essential consumables (food, toiletries such as soap/toothbrush/toothpaste, cleaning products, lightbulbs)
  • Material/equipment required to fix or maintain items (eg sewing thread and needles to fix a hole in clothing – if it cannot be found secondhand or borrowed/rented)
  • Material/equipment required for household fixtures/renovation projects (eg silicone to redo the bathroom tiles or installing a reading light in the bedroom)
  • Books/learning resources, if these cannot be found in digital format or used

And in 2016 I have bought thus far bought only two new things – one gift for a friend, and a wall clock for my apartment. I have also donated 4 items to the local secondhand shop, putting a little more fuel in the fire of the circular economy (keeping things in an active cycle of use, re-use and recycling).


Comparing my challenges to those taken in the US this year makes me seem like a pretty boring person since I’m cutting back on consumption (although it seems that this matches with Alabama at least!). But I am also interested in spending time out with friends, travelling and exploring more of Norway’s fantastic network of public cabins and huts (which I have a year’s membership to, but haven’t yet used!).

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