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“Ecotarianism,” wrote Tony Turnbull in The Times on 25 September, “is the new buzzword, a kind of greatest hits of all our favourite food movements from the past decade. It’s about sourcing locally, organically, sustainably, in season and leaving Earth’s resources untouched. It’s goodbye to £3 chickens imported from Thailand and hello to bean casseroles; no to winter asparagus and a resounding yes to celeriac mash.”

Tony Turnbull says ecotarianism was “apparently coined two years ago by a small group of Oxford undergraduates with an interest in food politics”. I can’t confirm that, though the term was used in the title of a paper by Jessica Lee at the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in September 2007, in which she noted that it “may be found floating about on the internet in limited usage”; it has been said since to be a catch-all term for anybody who is in general against what is sometimes called industrial food, but who varied in their emphasis.

Ecotarians can be meat-eaters, vegetarians or vegans. At its broadest, it’s an umbrella term for everybody who is concerned to eat food with the lowest possible carbon footprint. From this wide usage, it may be that ecotarianism is actually a blend of ecological with sectarianism rather than with the more obvious vegetarianism.

A good ecotarian bases their model diet on Tara Garnett’s study Cooking Up a Storm, a bible for people who care about food and its impact on the environment.

Evening Standard, 25 Nov 2008

It might seem unhelpful to fling in yet another dietary definition, but ecotarianism has a winningly common-sense approach. The concept is simple: eat the foods with the lowest environmental burden, those with the lowest global-warming potential (GWP) and the least chance of messing up the planet via their acidification and pollution potential.

Observer, 23 Nov. 2008

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 13 Dec. 2008

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 13 December 2008.