‘Free Solo’ on Plant-Based Rock Climber Wins Best Documentary Oscar

'Free Solo' Film on Plant-Based El Capitan Rock Climbing Champion Wins Critics Choice Award

American rock climber and environmentalist Alex Honnold stopped eating meat for the good of the planet.

Honnold, best known for his solo climbs without harnesses, is the subject of the 2018 biographical documentary “Free Solo,” which documented his climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

The film, directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, just won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. In doing so, it edged out stiff competition from “RBG,” the 2018 documentary on the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to Indie Wire.


The Oscar win is not the first time Free Solo has received critical praise. It took home the award for “Best Sports Documentary” at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards at the end of last year; the doc was also nominated for cinematography and “Innovative Documentary.”

Honnold’s Award-Winning Rope-less Climb

Honnold is an accomplished athlete despite his aversion to eating meat; he is the only person to have successfully scaled the wall without the use of ropes, harnesses, or other equipment, a style of climbing known as “free-solo.” He is also committed to reducing his carbon footprint wherever he can. In 2015, the athlete spoke to GQ about his vegetarian diet and living in his van, which is customized with solar panels.

In an interview with the Adventure Sports Network last March, Honnold revealed how sustainability is part of his core philosophy: “I try to minimize the environmental impact of my food – that’s probably the guiding principle. So, mostly that means eating a vegetarian or occasionally vegan diet. But I’m always trying to think through my choices and do the least harm.”

“In general, climbing has made me more connected to the environment, which is why I care about my dietary footprint,” he said.

Diet and The Environment

In recent years, numerous studies have revealed the detrimental effect that animal products have on the environment. At the UN’s  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was revealed that world governments have just 12 years to make “unprecedented changes” to all aspects of society in order to prevent environmental disaster. Leaders such as former president of Ireland Mary Robinson are pushing for individuals to adopt vegetarian or vegan diets in order to mitigate the effects.

When it comes to his favorite foods, Honnold says that he likes to have a big breakfast smoothie before he goes climbing and that the majority of his grocery bill is fruits and vegetables. He acknowledges that protein is part of a healthy diet, but does not worry about meetings his needs without meat. In the months leading up to his El Capitan climb, he ate an almost entirely vegan diet, apart from eggs.

“I was slightly leaner than normal and felt very healthy,” he added. To prepare mentally, he cut out social media and stopped responding to emails.

Going Beyond Food to Help the Planet

Honnold’s passion for the environment extends beyond his personal food choices. He recently invested in the vegan meat brand Beyond Meat, the makers of the Beyond Burger, a plant-based patty which looks, cooks, and tastes like beef. He invested alongside 13 other athletes – including Shaquille O’Neal and Kyrie Irving – who believe that plant-based living is the future.

In 2015, he also revealed in an interview that he donates a third of his income to his nonprofit, the Honnold Foundation. The organization helps bring sustainable solar energy to locations across the US and Africa.

In his 2016 book, “Alone on the Wall,” he wrote: “I’m deeply worried about the future of the world in the face of climate change, the unbridled use of fossil fuels, and so on. It’s this passion, as much as anything, that led to the idea of the Honnold Foundation.”