Plunging my arms deep into bags of dried beans and running the hard, cool skins along my fingertips takes me back to childhood: making chili, tamales, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and pupusas. Cooking with beans has an emotional resonance with me whether its chili beans over sweet potatoes, edamame in salads or smashed chickpeas in the most amazing protein-rich sandwiches. Lentil soup and plant-based grilled cheese sandwiches are my favorite comfort food on a lousy day. Black beans and quinoa make me strong after a long day of hiking. Growing green beans in my garden provide a sense of pride and connection to the Earth.


These healthy, low-cal meals leave a light carbon footprint and are an ode to my environmental work. That’s why, this summer, I’m packing my Extinction-free BBQ with bean dishes instead of beef. And here’s why you should, too:

1. Beans are more sustainable

A new study published in Climatic Change found that swapping out beans to replace beef could have major environmental benefits. Beef production is a colossal problem for the planet. By swapping our beef for beans could put us 75 percent of the way toward meeting our greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2020. Just by eating beans instead of beef.

It would also free up 42 percent of the cropland we currently waste to grow feed for cows. Instead, we could grow crops for humans or give habitat back to wildlife. Choosing beans over beef is the perfect complement to riding your bike to work or driving a hybrid car. We’re careful about the gas we put in our cars: we should be careful about what we put in our mouths.

2. Beans are better for your budget

Beans and rice are a key staple of our human diet around the world. Not only is it a delicious, nutritious combination that is gentler on the planet than beef, but it is far more affordable too. According to 2014 research, the average cost for a can of cooked beans (about two cups of beans) is $1.19. A pound of dried beans (about eight cups of beans) is more cost…