Can an egg sandwich made from mung beans convince Congress to take climate action?
Just ahead of Earth Day, Bay Area food tech company Eat Just announced it was sending a food truck to the nation’s capital with the goal of trolling U.S. senators, namely climate deniers. The truck, which is in the D.C. area through the month, is serving up free sandwiches made with the company’s popular mung-bean-based vegan Just Egg.
The sandwiches are named after Texas Senator Ted Cruz (the “Cancun Vacation”) and Florida Senator Rick Scott (the “Special Interest Sammy”)—a not-so-subtle jab at their track records and climate inaction. There’s even an option for outgoing Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe (the “Hot and Cold Special”). “These egg sandwiches are more effective against climate change than Congress,” read the truck’s billboard.
“We are a company built on our mission around around human and planetary health,” Tom Rossmeisl, Head of Global Marketing at Eat Just told Ethos last week. “And, so, we always talk about climate change. Sustainability is something that’s really important to us. It’s important for consumers.”
Rossmeisl says Eat Just has done Earth Day campaigns in the past, but those have focused predominantly on education and the benefits of a plant-based diet for the planet. But things are different now, he says. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report underscored the need for climate action.
Already, much of the world is feeling the impact; wildfire season has increased in California—not far from the Eat Just headquarters in San Francisco lie some of the biggest at-risk areas. The state is in its third drought year just ahead of fire season.
Warming temperatures are taking tolls in all parts of the world from Mongolia to the Antarctic. Rising sea levels threaten hundreds of millions of people, and the warming climate, combined with habitat loss at levels not seen before, threatens the Amazon, the largest carbon sink on land.
“It seemed given that moment, we needed to be honest, which is that we’re really proud of our company’s impact, but we’re not going to save the planet with plant-based eggs. And we don’t have a whole lot of time to wait,” Rossmeisl says. It’s a now or never moment.
In its recent installment of its Sixth Assessment Report, the IPCC said it’s likely the planet will surpass the 1.5°C targets established by the Paris Climate Accord, even if just temporarily. But the report also says humanity has all the resources it needs to walk it back. We just need drastic reductions in emissions, including a more than 30 percent drop in methane, which is produced in large part by animal agriculture. Methane traps more heat than CO2.
“So the the message of our campaign is to point out the absurdity that somehow a plant-based egg company has done more to help our planet than Congress,” Rossmeisl says.
‘An urgent moment for our planet’
While visiting Seattle on Earth Day, President Biden criticized opposition to climate action by Republicans (and a few Democrats, though not by name, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both opposed climate legislation).
Senate has already blocked hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits that would make clean energy more accessible. The evenly divided chamber makes legislative victories difficult, putting Biden’s climate goals further out of reach.
“We’ve reached the point where the crisis on the environment has become so obvious, with the notable exception of the former president, that we really have an opportunity to do things we couldn’t have done two, five, 10 years ago,” Biden told reporters on Friday.
“This is an urgent moment for our planet,” says Rossmeisl. “Congress needs to do more, we need to do more.”
Unlike other stunts that have targeted the White House and Congress, there’s no specific ask here. “We’re not the policy experts,” says Rossmeisl. “The thrust of the campaign is that it needs to be a priority, though. And that a plant-based egg brand has done more for the planet than Congress is really meant to underscore the fact that Congress was basically doing nothing.”
Just Egg’s climate impact
According to Eat Just, the company has done a lot with its vegan egg that only launched a few years ago. Since it debuted in the U.S. in 2019, it’s sold the equivalent of more than a quarter billion conventional eggs, which reduced CO2 emissions by more than 43.6 million kilograms—about the same as taking nearly 10,000 cars off the road a year. The milestone also saved more than nine billion gallons of water—nearly 14,000 Olympic-size swimming pools—and more than 13,000 acres of land. The vegan eggs require 83 percent less land than chicken eggs, use 98 percent less water, and produce 93 percent fewer emissions.
When it comes to animal products, the numbers look a lot different; animal agriculture is a leading driver of emissions—about 15 percent, but some estimates put it much higher. It’s also the leading producer of methane, producing about 25 percent of its emissions. Eggs are resource intensive, too: a dozen eggs requires about 624 gallons of water, or 52 gallons per egg, due to the water-intensive grain chickens consume—about two pounds of grain per pound of egg.
And while Eat Just’s campaign is targeting Republican senators to take action, it isn’t partisan. Rossmeisl stresses that. But the company is urging its customers to contact their Senators and members of Congress. The campaign website makes it easy to search them up and send them a request to prioritize climate action.
“We’re not going to stop talking about this,” Rossmeisl says. “This is something we care deeply about. And we always have. Planet health has been at the center of what we’ve always been doing. And we’re going to keep talking about it, we’re gonna keep talking about in terms of what we need our leaders to do. And we’re going to also keep talking about what people can do.”
There is a lot people can do even if Congress isn’t as quick to follow suit, Rossmeisl says. “We believe it’s really important for people to think more carefully about the impact they have on our planet especially when it comes to the food they eat,” he says.
“And Eat Just will do more to add our voice to the growing chorus of Americans and people around the world who are saying this is pretty urgent—it’s a pretty big deal. We all need to do more about it.”