Rethinking How We Eat with Award-Winning Author Thomas Kostigen

April 10, 2024

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Thomas M. Kostigen is an award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author and journalist. He founded the Climate Survivalist column for USA Today and has written for numerous publications, including The Washington PostNational GeographicDiscoverDeparturesThe Los Angeles TimesThe Chicago Tribune, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. He is the coauthor with Robert Downey, Jr. of the forthcoming “Cool Food: How to Erase Your Carbon Footprint One Bite at a Time” (Blackstone).

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian. I’m so honored to have with us today Thomas Kostigen. He’s the author of this beautiful new book here, ‘Cool Food: How To Erase Your Carbon Footprint One Bite at a Time’. Welcome Thomas to the Impact Podcast.

Thomas Kostigen: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.

John: Well, I appreciate you coming on the show and talking about these important topics that are very hot topics down in the world. They weren’t hot, maybe 15 or 20 years ago, but this is really going to be a timely show for those who are interested in improving their health, improving their diet and making the world a better place at the same time, but before we get into this book that you’ve written, Thomas, can you share a little bit about your background? Where did you grow up and how did you get on this wonderful journey of becoming, I don’t want to leave out, a New York Times bestselling writer and a very esteemed journalist? How’d you get on this journey?

Thomas: Sure, well, I’ll take you on the long journey. How is that?

John: Good. I love it.

Thomas: I’m going to take you all the way back to Boston, Massachusetts, my friend, where I grew up. I went to undergraduate school there, went to graduate school there, and then was in the communication studies programs and ended up in Washington, DC. I actually did some internships at some local newspapers and things like that, typical college work, and then found myself in Washington, DC, covering Congress and government agencies and really a lot of things that you have a totally different perspective on when you’re in the trenches covering congressional meetings and doing the day to day and seeing how things work, politically was a real eye-opener and fascinating for me as a young journalist just coming up trying to understand the functions of power, the functions of government, functions of the private sector and seeing how things kind of worked. So I did my stint there and then ended up in the 1990s in New York for about 15 years, during my formative years writing for magazines and all sorts of things. That led me on a journey of doing some documentary work which brought me into the Los Angeles scene a little bit with film and television then found myself doing a short documentary in Ethiopia, and was there doing a stand-up by a dry riverbed up by the old We Are the World camps, if you remember those…

John: Sure.

Thomas: …and revisiting those about a decade or so on after that, just to see how things went, kind of a touchback, and things had actually gotten worse at that point during a dry period. Then I’m going to tell you, John, there was this color purple by the horizon line, just about a thumb size. It got bigger and bigger and bigger and came up to about my waist height. It was about an 8 or 10-year-old girl in a purple dress from a local village, and here I am, kind of Western white man, jaded, you know, talking about things. We had been in the country for a little bit, and so I kind of knew what the routine was of asking for a handout or something so I thought. I asked my translator because we were in a rush, you know, how much? Just like that cold, not caring…

John: Just cut to it.

Thomas: …and he said, wait a minute, she initiated[?] a conversation and then he talks a little more. He said, “She wants a pencil”. This intrigued me of what anyone I said, “Why?” And he said, “She wants to do her homework and she doesn’t want any money. And she doesn’t have anything to write with”, and more conversation and more translation. Turns out she wants to be a doctor to help people in her village.

John: Wow.

Thomas: So all of a sudden it’s full, right? This humanity of like, I’ll give you anything that I might, and so I do my thing. And then I go back to The States and I’m thinking, you know, with the literal pencil, you know, I don’t know what happened, what became of her, whether she, you know, went to become a doctor, what have you, but I was thinking, if I could do something that had a ripple effect with a literal pencil, what can I do with the proverbial pencil in my hand now? That’s what I do. Communicate. I’m able to, you know, provide information to people. So I wanted to do something that was more prescriptive or positive, more solutions-based, as opposed to objective journalism back then, which was more objective than where it is today. So I went back and I ended up writing a column for USA Today and then I did a book called The Green Book, which happened to come out in just about the middle of 2007, right after an inconvenient truth.

John: I Remember.

Thomas: By Al Gore[?], you come out of the theater thinking, oh my God, I never really heard of this. A lot of people hadn’t heard of the climate and hadn’t heard of what an existential threat was, and so this book, just by kismet, had hundreds of solutions of what you could do in your everyday life to help the world.

John: Wow.

Thomas: And so it became kind of a big bestseller and Oprah picked it up and it was this thing. So that brought me on this path and this journey of just trying to do more and more to show what we do to people, places, things all over the world and what people, places, and things all over the world do to us, and how this symbiotic relationship can maybe come a little bit more balanced. If we just think about what we’re doing and what actions we’re taking, what we’re eating, how we’re going through life and understanding where things come from and how our differences may end up someplace else, whether it’s pollution or actual waste. So that’s been the journey I’ve been on without being a kumbaya about it. I’m not really that way. I’m just very accessible and practical and saying, “Yeah, don’t you just want to know where your food came from?” And so, maybe that’s healthier, and just understand it. So if you do make that choice between an apple and a banana, that’s simply which apple, which banana? Pretty simple stuff. So I wrote a lot of books in this space. This is my 11th, Downey became kind of a fan of my work and had started this foundation called the Footprint Coalition. He and I started talking, became friends, and worked on some other projects based on some of my other books that are still in development, sort of working on those in the climate space, and then said, as opposed to TV and film and all these other things that we have going on, why don’t we just do a book and get something that people can hold on to and refer to, and make it simple, fun, prescriptive, different, good looking and more food entertainment. So that you’re not pummeled with academic speak, you’re not pummeled with intimidating information. You don’t have to go through everything and try and figure out if you could afford to put solar panels on your roof or buy a new electric car. It’s a very simple proposition that Robert had was, okay, it’s like improv. There is no… it’s we walk into the grocery store, go. From there, we had this kind of ratcheting up what that would look like to make the decisions a little bit more planet-friendly. So that’s how the evolution came about.

John: When did I love that? And again, the book is ‘Cool Food: Erasing Your Carbon Footprint One Bite at a Time’. You can buy it at, Barnes & Noble, and Fine bookstores wherever you live across the planet. What about your diet? I mean, how have you been, how were you raised? First of all, in Boston, and in terms of, was it a regular meat and potatoes household? And how has your diet evolved over time?

Thomas: Well, I’ll tell you one statistic about me and you’ll understand everything.

John: Okay.

Thomas: I’m the youngest of 9 children from Boston. So you can guess my ethnicity. You know who I am.

John: I already know a lot about you. That’s all you have to tell me.

Thomas: You know who I am. Right?

John: Wow.

Thomas: So, you know who my ancestors are, you know the whole [inaudible].

John: [inaudible] That’s awesome. Okay,

Thomas: Boston, 9 kids. So we’d have meat a lot. We’d have potatoes a lot. We’d have the traditional types of food and it was a bit of a battle between me and my brothers, like literally a battle of sometimes of getting into it on the table.

John: What we used to say back in the back east? If you’re not fast, you’re hungry.

Thomas: Yeah. It was that way with my brothers a lot. So it was a traditional meat potatoes thing and that, you know, was constant, especially in a place like Boston where you have that type of tradition. It’s almost like a pub city, I would call it, as we were talking about I spend a lot of time in London and some other places in Europe and such. When you see the weather patterns and everything, you should kind of understand that and the same thing in a place like Boston and even New York to an extent. You need to have to go inside and you want things that [inaudible] sustain you. So that lasted throughout college, same diet, all that stuff. Then at some point, I decided that I was just eating way too much chicken. It was just, okay, is there something else? It’s just too easy, and it’s just that weird shift, started me thinking about what else should I be. Then my exercise regimen changed to incorporate… This is when yoga was starting to get more popular.

John: Right?

Thomas: I should have to stretch out because, growing up as an athlete and working out every day for X number of years, your body starts…

John: It’s a [inaudible]

Thomas: Yeah, I was like, okay, I can’t run like I used to, dude. So now I got to kind of stretch out, even though I don’t want to. So I had to incorporate some yoga. Then my instructor at the time just started talking about plant-based, and so my body just said, that sounds really good. Not even my consciousness, just my body was just like, I want that. So I just started getting away with the chicken and get away with the meat, got away with everything, and I’ve been on that train for 20-something years now. I don’t really miss anything at all. I still train every day. I train hard and my body and if you ever saw Game Changers, you understand that you don’t really need that type of protein to still be an athlete or to train every day or, get your exercise in too. So, I’ve been pretty happy with that, and a lot more energy and started incorporating some fasting into my routine too. I try not to eat lunch.

John: That’s great.

Thomas: Yeah, so I kind of just pushed through with a lot of fruits and grains. I don’t really feel that much… Maybe a little yogurt or something and power you on. Then you’re at dinner and you’re ready to go and you’re okay. Then if you fast, you actually… I find I get more energy.

John: That’s right.

Thomas: You know, so it kind of spikes me to a good level without the sugar. Sugar is tough to get out of your diet. It’s the one thing that I find it’s just really hard to move out of that and carbs too is like a, you know, complex carbs. Really kind of difficult to, when you’re just on a vegetarian diet, it’s tough because you kind of need that for your body. So it’s always a balance, and because I have this diet, I’m always thinking of like, what can I have? What can I not have? And I’m always the pain in the ass when in a group of people because I’m just having a salad and people… And I’m not, I don’t drink. So it’s kind of like, I’m that guy, but I’m good with it.

John: So I’m that guy too. So I can totally relate. It’s funny you said… And I’m actually on the third day of a fast myself right now as I’ve talked with you, and I think it’s… I mean, the science is there. It’s not an opinion anymore. The science is there that it’s, it’s a great way to reboot your whole system. Everything.

Thomas: Hundred percent. It just makes so much sense, you know. It really does…

John: And it feels good. You sleep better, you feel better, your brain is sharper, and I think that’s going to be part of the future of the health and wellness trends that seem to be growing.

Thomas: Yeah, and it’s not just fasting. I think a lot of people like, “Oh, you know, it’s this thing, this fasting, and you’re going to be this skinny little weed and like a marathon runner look”, you know, it’s like, that’s not what it is at all. It’s completely different than that and you’re not doing that. Actually eating more, you lose weight. If you’re eating the right stuff. So it’s really just trying to understand what your body’s doing.

John: That’s right.

Thomas: I got my blood work done down. Downey gets his blood work done. So there’s like different things that we realized we kind of need. He needs a lot of iron. Don’t get me started on the Iron Man thing, but iron is dire, and, you know, I don’t for whatever reason. So there’s just other, you know, everybody’s individual, but it just makes so much sense to understand what you need. So you’re not out there either feeling tired or feeling bad, and that leads to other bad choices if you ask me.

John: Oh, it’s a cascading effect. Like you said, the more good you do, the more good you want to do. The series of bad choices is another domino effect that moves in the wrong direction when you’ve got that train rolling too.

Thomas: Yeah.

John: That’s interesting. I’m big on the testing as you said, blood panel, grail test, full-body MRI, all that stuff. It wasn’t around 10 years ago. It’s why not take advantage of the stuff that exists today.

Thomas: Exactly, and guess what that proves when you start doing it? You know, there was a thing on Netflix too, this documentary that’s out there now, don’t know if you saw that, and…

John: The Twin…

Thomas: Yeah.

John: Yeah. That was great.

John: And it’s interesting just to see and it proves everything we’ve just been saying. So it’s science. It’s not just conjecture anymore. It’s not anecdotal. It’s not, oh, this works for me, so it’s going to work for you. That’s not it.

John: It’s not it. You’re so right. So, when did you actually start writing this book, Cool Food? When did you start penning this book?

Thomas: Yeah, about 2 years ago, right around the pandemic, because we were working on something else we had to put on hold because of that. So we’re developing a series based on another book that I wrote that has to do with climate technology and kind of, you know, big ideas. Lo and behold, this hits and we had kicked around this idea of doing a book and then it kind of came to fruition during that time because we could actually work on it. Be in a zone, you know, where we get together when they would lift these bans and [inaudible] just so crazy. You think back now to what we were doing and putting masks on and seeing a person [inaudible] from each other and it’s just… It’s crazy to think back on.

John: It’s a it’s a little bit embarrassing and nuts at the same time.

Thomas: It is and we’re all just like, okay, we’ll do that.

John: Like sheep. Oh, no science. Okay. No, it’s not fact-based. Okay.

Thomas: Yeah, But we didn’t know. So then you’re going to be that person who walks into the room, so it’s your [inaudible]. So one of those things. So that, but at least it got us to this point of, let’s start ideating, let’s have some fun, let’s kick around some ideas. The book has changed quite a bit since what we wanted to do because of the pandemic, and it didn’t start the way we thought it would start, with like seaweeds and things like that because we actually happened to be walking along the beach in Malibu when we came up with this whole idea of, okay, seaweed as a food is a climate killer. That kind of got us more into the book. We just had a miso soup lunch as a matter of fact. So we just started kicking around that idea. Then it just evolved, just a lot of like texting, Zooms, getting together, having a bunch of meals, traveling around stuff like that, and became this kind of fun adventure in about a third of the way in. We’re like, okay, I guess we’re really doing this as a full-on project.

John: How long has Downey been a plant-based eater?

Thomas: He just moved into plant-based about a year ago. He was mostly pescatarian.

John: Got it.

Thomas: He had given up meat when we started on this. Then he had tried to just go total vegan. It didn’t work for him because he just went cold turkey. He went straight vegan. His wife is straight vegan. It just didn’t work. He didn’t do the gradual thing. So they went back to basics, and that’s when we did some blood work and stuff like that, figured out what the needs were to fill that gap, so he could move off. So then he went flexitarian with the pescatarian. Then he went full-on a veg.

John: Got it. So take us where you want to start here, Thomas. You know, there’s a lot in this book in terms of recipes and how to read different food codes and in terms of how to store food and buy food. Where do you want to start in terms of this wonderful journey you put us on in this great book?

Thomas: I think that the key here is that it’s trying to demystify this movement because it really is the Cool Food Movement is a movement here. There’s cool food badges that you can get. Places are putting cool food, you know, asterisks on their menu like they do with vegan or vegetarian. College, campuses are serving cool food. So there’s more than two billion meals now that are served in the cool food space on an annual basis. So it’s growing. We thought, you know what, we can sort of take the guesswork out of it. People want to know what is cool food, which, you know, it’s a very simple thing. It’s just holding more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere through trunks and roots leaves and soil. So perennial plants, for example, those that you don’t have to rip up out of the ground, perpetual spinach, things like that, that you don’t have to rip up out of the ground every season and replant, much better for the environment. We have whole lists of different types of fruits that come from big trees like coconuts or mangoes and things like that. They keep more carbon in the ground and out of the air. Pretty simple stuff, right? And then we started to get into some of the labeling and then realizing a lot of people don’t know that the nine in front of a PLU means organic. Those have different meanings, each one of those five-digit codes. Four is just a traditional food. We started to explain some of that. Then we started to look at some of the history. So in the book, there’s science, interviews, facts, recipes, personal stories from Robert himself. There’s lists, there’s tips from some of the biggest food advocates in the world who believe in sustainability, top chefs and politicians, and food psychologists, which are some of the most fascinating things because they can trick your brain into thinking you’re eating other types of foods, which if you do it the positive way is great. They’ve also messed with people a little bit and, done it the other way. So they think they’re eating something really awful when they’re not just eating something normal. So there’s all of these things that we found like let’s demystify the food system because it’s so big and it’s so important. So what can we do to put people on the path and we went on the journey with everybody? So we’re both the every people in this and we’re kind of moving along learning from people in the space, trying to understand the science, translating that, making it accessible so that when you shop for food you know the right types of foods that, or you know foods you might want to buy that are better for the planet, for fruits, vegetables, there’s recipes that go along with that. We also get into food waste, which is a huge issue. We didn’t even think we were going to write about that, but it just became so apparent how important that is in the context of food.

John: Let’s do that. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Most people don’t understand one of the greatest fillers of landfills across the world is food waste. How is that leading to, how is that exacerbating the climate change issues that we have, the climate problem that we have?

Thomas: Yeah, and the number one thing in landfills is food. It’s crazy.

John: Most people think it’s their old sofa. It’s not.

Thomas: Yeah, it’s not. Well, most people think they’re doing a really good job on, mitigating food waste and it’s not really true. In the United States, it’s about about a pound per person every single day. It’s huge. 30% of the food that you buy for your home actually goes to waste. 50% when you add restaurants. There’s also some myths around restaurants donating to food banks and those types of things. So there’s different protections that have been put in place so you can donate food, not be used food. Obviously, the food that just hasn’t been eaten, it’s left over. So there’s a lot of those things that we try to put out there because food waste is 50% of the problem in the agricultural sector or its greenhouse gas emissions. 50%. So it’s energy. Number one thing for greenhouse gas that are raising global temperatures. Second is agriculture. So 50% of that is food waste. So we could mitigate 50% of that just by mitigating our food waste. It’s crazy that we’re not so on top of it, especially when like one in five kids in the United States is in a state of hunger. Right now it’s a phenomenal statistic, and with food inflation causing that to be even worse. It’s a big problem for a lot of families. So how do you portion correctly? What types of food are better? How do you store things? Do expiration dates matter? A lot of these things come into play in the food waste space. It’s really interesting to speak with some of the experts to, you know, there’s a zero waste movement out there who have joined the zero waste movement. I was at a restaurant with one of these chefs who is a top chef in the world and he serves… He’s got probably two turnovers a night, two of them turnovers at the night of a table. He’s packed. So he’s probably doing two, 300 covers a night. Then at the end of the week, he’s got a trash can that’s like the size of a small bathroom trash can of waste. That’s it. He composts them because he thinks through everything and uses some of the bran from the week to make the ice cream and everything has a message and a story. He just thinks about it and the portions that he serves are just spot on. This is one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. So these are the types of things that if we could start to think about this stuff at home and maybe start to think about composting, that there’s new laws in California, a lot of states have different laws now in terms of composting. There’s different resources you can utilize that really help other people like ample harvest. You have extra things, you know, a lot of people grow things in their backyard. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too. You show up at a friend’s house and he’s like, do you want lemons? I got a lot of lemons.

John: Exactly.

Thomas: Like, okay, man, you calm down. I’ll take some lemons from you. There are places that actually take that, like [inaudible] you add that up from everybody and it’s a big deal. So ample harvest is a good one. A lot of food banks. What’s interesting now is that artificial intelligence and the internet are helping immensely because they’re allowing big food companies to better regulate and understand how much they should buy. So food doesn’t go to waste.

John: By using predictive analytics. That’s brilliant.

Thomas: Correct. And at the same time, a lot of food banks and food companies coordinate with restaurants so they can then figure out what they need at what, which day from which source and get it delivered. So it’s really an interesting thing that’s happening. It’s something to take a look at when we take a look at virtual farmers markets. It all kind of comes into play. So food waste just because of the methane gas that it produces. So when food burns, it creates methane gas, not carbon. Methane is about 30 to 80 times more potent as a pollution in the atmosphere than carbon. It’s a real big issue. So there’s a lot of opportunity with that too, just to spin it the other way because we could take methane gas, it’s probably what you use for your barbecue grill, you know, for a lot of people. So you’re able to like repurpose that. There’s a lot of different opportunities to reutilize some of the gases if you can capture it. The basic thing is how can we be smarter about the amount of food that we buy when we buy it? And how do we plan? We talked about dieting before we talked about some of these other programs. Anybody who’s ever been weight conscious or been on some type of training program realizes if you start journaling your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, counting your calories, you understand what’s going into your body. If you did this, you see, create these meal plans for a week, typically, you did the same thing with food and had it as a waste type of mentality. Then you could actually do a lot to save what you’re buying in excess.

John: Thomas, when is composting going to come and be as normalized in our homes as our old food disposals? How hard is it to develop technology that all of us in every household across this great country and across the world, by the way, should have an at-home compost machine?

Thomas: Yeah, there’s some great… I have a countertop one that’s unbelievable.

John: Do you really?

Thomas: Yeah.

John: How accessible is it? Is it just buy it on Amazon or is it just you go online?

Thomas: Yeah, you can go online and buy it. Yeah, countertop compost machine and they’re great. So you don’t have to have a big space for it. Otherwise, the green buckets are now mandatory in California to the tune of $500 a day is a fine if you don’t compost. So there’s some new laws. If you go to refed, I think it’s They have all of the different types of composting laws and regulations around. We’ve come a long way from when I wrote The Green Book, 20 years, I think now it is. Then, I used to get these emails and correspondence from readers who were saying, “We don’t have recycling in my neighborhood”. Now everybody has recycling in their neighborhood. [inaudible] So how do I do some of these things that you’re recommending if I don’t have recycling in my neighborhood? Now it’s composting and that’s the next thing. So you see the conclusion of how things can…

John: That’s right.

Thomas: …all of a sudden become more mainstream and just make so much more sense. I just wish it would become less politicized and just more sensical because these are just sensical things to do but…

John: Well, what I love is great people like you and Downey put out a wonderful book like this and then Netflix puts out all their, I mean, they’ve had two or three recent documentaries on that cover plant-based eating and I think the whole woo-woo side of it is starting to fade away because as you and I know, you started doing this 20 years ago. I started about 13 years ago, but I was a vegetarian since 17. So I’m 61 now. That’s 44 years. When I was a vegetarian in New York City, 17 years old, there wasn’t a lot to eat. I mean, that was fun. Now it’s fun. You and I can go into an Yiwan or to a Whole Foods and make an amazing dinner for ourselves or our families that is unbelievably savory, delicious, and nobody feels like they’re missing anything anymore.

Thomas: Yeah. That’s why we did a lot of recipes with the Vegetarian Society and they have these incredible things and I’m taking some courses with the head chef over there because what you can do with just fruits and vegetables and different ways and the tastes that you can get out of them, it’s really mind-blowing and it’s just think about like eggplant parmesan. Super simple. Right? But it’s hearty and you feel filled. Now you could take that to different levels and different taste levels and it’s like to your point, it’s so accessible and it just makes so much sense especially with the idea that we can start to diversify our diets because if we start to ask for different things if we start to ask for different types of grains that aren’t processed and different types of whole foods that you can’t really access, the average grocery store is about 50 to 80 different types of varieties of vegetables. There are thousands, tens of thousands of edible plants in the world. So we’re being kind of in this condition to be in this funnel and if we started to diversify our food system, what else happens then? Then you start to diversify how these things are farmed and as we kind of all know, the more that you rotate crops, the more that you have a diversified polyculture, it’s so much better for the soil. A lot of these problems go away and it’s just by us saying, can we have something else here? So I was talking with the head of the Hunts Point Market up in the Bronx.

John: Oh sure.

Thomas: Largest food market in the world by volume. I said, well, how does it work if we tried to get some other food into the system that people would want? And they said, just ask us, how do you think kale got so popular? How do you think cauliflower got so popular? We heard that you guys at the grocery store wanted it. We told our farmers to start growing it. It’s a business, so if we know there is demand out there, we’re going to create the supply to fit that demand, and that’s how it is. They do listen. People think that you’re just at the beck and call of what’s on the shelf, but you can ask the store manager and it gets back to the right people. It really does help.

John: Talk a little bit about when you go out with your friends and they think that, oh, this is what you do. The way you eat is so difficult. First of all, demystify that a little bit in terms of it’s not that difficult. Second of all, people think it’s an all-or-nothing thing. People don’t have to be all plant-based if they… But imagine if they just changed your diet by 50%. 50% of what they eat was more plant-based and not traditional, historic American Western-based eating. I mean, people think it’s an all-or-nothing proposition and it’s obviously not.

Thomas: No, it’s a mix, and you’ll appreciate the story because I’m sure the same thing happens to you. I would say two out of every three times that I go out with a buddy of mine to have like watch a game or whatever, and I order a plant burger or I order a salad, they don’t want the burger anymore. They think about what you’re ordering or what I’m ordering and they will get something in kind because it makes them think about what they’re consuming. The biggest hurdle for any of this is to stop and think about what you’re having in the context of health and the planet. So when you put that in front of someone, sometimes someone’s like, oh, I just feel like a hamburger would have even… That’s their choice. That’s up to them. I would say two out of the three times, someone’s going to say, you know what? I’m going to have a salad too, and some fries because it just makes them feel… You’re almost guilting them in a way, making them feel guilty. It’s not the intent, but they just want to then feel healthier about it. I’ve had a lot of that happen when I’m out to… It happened today. It was at lunch. It was a business lunch. I ordered a salad, it was like a beet salad. And the person across was like, oh, that sounds great. I’m going to have that too. It just kind of puts you on the… So that helps because now all of a sudden you’ve taken a lot of the questions out of their head. It’s just not the go-to thing like I was talking about with me and just getting chicken, because you’re not thinking you’re busy. You’re just trying to get… So I’ll just have that, you’re not thinking about the consequences. I think that’s one big thing there. If we could start to then incorporate some of that just honest consciousness into, you know, this whole system, it’s going to have its effect. The more of us who do it, I think the better off it is. And guess what? For food companies, it’s cheaper. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a plant-based, you know, item than it is to grow a freaking cow and slaughter it and then make burgers out of it. It’s just a lot cheaper to make plant-based foods. A really interesting statistic is that I was at a place called Max Burger in Sweden. They serve more burgers than McDonald’s or Burger King. They are all about being plant-based and they’ve done a study of their customers. They do deep-dive white paper studies into all of their stuff. The guests that order plant-based most are meat-eaters, non-vegetarians, and It’s not… It’s because A, it’s less expensive and B, they like the taste as it’s different than what they’re used to eating. It’s different, and to your point, if you take even, let’s say, a taco and let’s say you’re a meat-eater and you mix it up with lentils, A, you’re saving because you’re not using all that meat at once. You mix it up with some lentils, which have higher protein per pound by the way than any type of beef. Now all of a sudden you’re having this hybrid approach and maybe you start to think, oh, that actually tastes okay. Then you start to move, hopefully, to a more pure vegetarian version of that, but at least you’re cutting that by 50%, just by including lentils with that taco. So it helps, every little bit helps.

John: Max’s serves regular burgers and vegan burgers. That’s awesome. That’s just wonderful. The other compelling thing that I usually… The stories that I share with folks just to make them think… I think the word you were looking for, not that I have to tell you what words to look for, because you’re the writer here and I’m not, was eating with intention. Like you said, when you’re eating a certain way, people mirror you because now they realize how you eat with intention and they don’t. They mindlessly eat. Let’s go back. So I think another compelling part of this is that food is at the end of the day also not only nourishment, but when people eventually wear themselves out or overdo the things that they’ve enjoyed for so long and get sick, food can be medicine then, and eating this way, I have so many friends, even relatives that have turned around health conditions that were deemed by traditional western medicine as foregone conclusions with a bad ending. They’ve turned them around just through the food that they eat and how they decide to re-nourish their body using the Cool Food plant-based methodology, and it works. I’m sure you have similar stories in your travels of friends that have turned their life and their health around just by changing their diet.

Thomas: Oh, yeah. Food medicine is a growing thing. When you start to think about it again, having some consciousness you go, well, that makes sense because the only thing your body is receiving is what you’re putting in it. That’s the only thing that’s processing. So if you can make it process something that makes things, you know, as we all know now, there’s different types of supplements that you can have to be more aware or, to make your body look a certain way. Why not go a little deeper than… and If it can make you healthier, if it can help you with not only your digestion, but if it can help your heart, that whole thing is a big, big issue for a lot of people. When you start to look at some of the heart conditions that are out there, some of the diabetes conditions that are out there, it’s just a very simple change that doesn’t require a whole new lifestyle for you. It’s just being smarter about what you’re consuming. If you go to a lot of developing nations, I’ve spent a lot of time in the developing world and rural places, and you go way out in the rainforests and you with people who are living off the land. Guess what they’re using for their medicine? It’s food or food things they can find out there. You know, about 90% of the prescription drugs that we have to cure our problems come from the rainforest and foods that traditional people eat. So it’s that local indigenous knowledge that’s informing our lifestyle, whether we want to understand that or not. There aren’t labs, last time I checked out, like, you know, the middle of the rainforest, they’re just having foods that are that have been proven over time to make people feel better or be healthier or to cure certain ailments. That, I think, is really becoming more and more of a… That’s called Eastern mentality that we’ve heard about so long in terms of Eastern medicine is really joining forces with Western medicine now. I’ve been on that train again for probably 15, 20 years.

John: In terms of mixing, doing a nice mix of Western and Eastern medicine.

Thomas: I try not to do any Western medicine.

John: Wow.

Thomas: It’s mostly just, holistic approach to body, mind, spirit type of stuff, but it’s also with natural holistic stuff. I don’t take any prescriptions, drugs, drives my dentist just crazy because I don’t even like to get shot up with Novocaine or anything like that.

John: I think we’re brothers from a different mother, Jesus. I mean, I’m literally living the same. You must have had some amazing meals going back to the story with the young little girl in purple… with the pencil. Ethiopia has great plant-based cooking and food. I’m sure you had some great meals when you were there.

Thomas: Yeah. I mean, that’s what’s so interesting is that we don’t get so much of that at all. Marcus Samuelsson, am a big fan of his and he’s he’s Ethiopian-Swedish. He does a lot of that, you know, discussion and just eye-opening, and so it’s injera and all of that that you use. It’s a teff-based bread, which is a more resilient grain that you have there, and mostly vegetarian because, look, they can’t afford to have meat, and vegetables are a lot easier to grow. So again, this whole mentality is coming West because we’re finding the same thing is that meat is becoming not only a climate problem, it’s becoming a problem for a lot of different reasons for people’s health that we’re finding and for just land, so much land that it takes up in crops. So I think we really have to start looking at that as such a big issue. What can we do now that we know some of these problems to try and address those concerns about cattle and livestock?

John: Thomas, in terms of hopefulness versus hopelessness, if people start… If people listen to the show and don’t have to go all in with being plant-based and eating cool food, but if they just shift their diet a little bit and one-third of their diet goes more plant-based, can we collectively fight pushback on this climate change issue if we all start altering our diet for the better?

Thomas: Hundred percent. I mean, just look at that food waste issue that I talked about that’s responsible for 50% of the emissions. Take that to the next level of climate-positive foods, sustainable foods like we talk about. Now you’re starting to get these margins. There’s no one silver bullet for the climate. I think we all know that. It’s not just getting rid of fossil fuels tomorrow because that’s just not going to happen. Millions of people are going to die, but over time, we can start to phase that out. Same thing with our diets now. We’re looking at agriculture. What can we do to kind of phase in more positive agriculture? I think it’s just being reasonable and not saying, okay, this is a binary discussion. Stop this right now. There are ways that we can have a more, I guess, reasonable transition to call it, and what can we do with that? I think that’s where we’re headed with all of this. It’s really encouraging to see, I mean, just look at the growth and popularity of whole foods or any of these natural food chains or some of the plant-based items that are on the menus. I mean, they’re there for a reason. There’s a market to be had. So it’s basic economics, if there’s a market to be had, markets going to exploit it. So we start to operate more selfishly. I really hope people do and take that the right way because being selfish means you want to live longer, you want to live healthier, and you want to help other people. That to me is being selfish because I’m putting myself at the center of that equation. Hopefully, this will start to catch on and we’ll see more and more whole foods, and we’ll start to see less of the more processed things that are bad for us. People are going to reject that and choose the right thing.

John: What are the top two or three takeaways you want people to remember from this book after they buy your book and read it, or even from this podcast? What do you want them to take away?

Thomas: Yeah, I mean, you don’t have to be a complete nut and freak about it. You could just do, like you said, you could start and just swap out one thing, you know, have an apple. Apple’s a great climate fighter. Start to look at the ocean. A lot of people don’t look at that, but oceans are the biggest carbon store. Look at sea vegetables and those types of things that are super… The most nutritious food that they found is watercress.

John: Really?

Thomas: Yeah, and it has the most nutrients, the most nutrient-rich food, and that’s super good for the environment too. So just think about where your food comes from. Think about the seasonality. Should I be having this tomato in the middle of winter if I live in Boston? Where does that thing come from? You know what I mean?

John: Right.

Thomas: So think that through a little bit and then think about food waste.

John: Got it.

Thomas: So just know where your food comes from. Know what you’re putting in your body, and the rest of its kind of up to you.

John: Now, Thomas, you and Robert are well-known people in Hollywood. Are you going to take this book with Robert now and… Is Apple, Amazon Prime, or Netflix? You guys going to do a documentary with this book? Come on, break the story here. Come on, give me a little breaking news.

Thomas: You tell him, brother. You tell him. We are doing another book, how’s that? There’s breaking news. We’re going to do another book. He’s the one who always says that so…

John: That’s good. I love it. All right. For our listeners and viewers, buy Cool Food. This book is important. Erasing Your Carbon Footprint One Bite At a Time. Thomas Kostigen can do it. I can do it. You can do it too. To find Thomas, by the way, you can go to K-O-S-T-I-G-E-N. It will be in the show notes if you need it in the show notes. Thomas, thanks so much for coming on. I know you stayed up late to do the show. You’re in London. I’m in California today. I hope we get to break bread one day. I hope I get to meet you in person. You are my kind of guy and this is my kind of book. I hope our listeners and viewers go out and buy this book soon. Thanks for not only doing this book with Robert, but thank you for making the world a better place.

Thomas: Thanks so much for having me and look forward to that bread.

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