Cambridge University has seen a drastic reduction in its environmental impact since it banned beef three years ago.
The University’s Catering Service replaced meat with plant-based products for its 14 college outlets and 1,500 annual events from October 2016.
This switch has led to a 33 percent reduction in carbon emissions per kilogram of food purchased and a 28 percent reduction in land use per kilogram of food purchased, according to the report conducted by the University’s in-house catering service.
The move was initiated as part of the Our Sustainable Food Journey policy, in which the University not only stopped serving beef and lamb but also removed ‘unsustainable’ fish and stopped selling single-use plastic bottles.
Nick White, Head of the University Catering Service said: “Sustainability is extremely important to our students and staff and we wanted to ensure that we were not only responding to their needs, but pushing what was considered possible in a catering environment.
“This has involved making sacrifices but is has been absolutely the right thing to do. It’s about making the right choice easy.”.
The catering department has since recorded a 2 % rise in profit with its meat-free strategy.
Andrew Balmford, Cambridge University Professor of Conservation Science, said: “The University’s catering managers have, in a very short time, dramatically reduced the environmental footprint of their operation by removing ruminant meat from its menus, lowering food waste and eliminating unsustainably harvested fish– while simultaneously increasing sales and profit.
“It is hard to imagine any other interventions that could yield such dramatic benefits in so short a span of time.”
To make the vegan transition appeal to the university’s students, chefs were enrolled in vegan cookery classes.
Apart from increasing vegan and vegetarian options in the canteen, the items were placed strategically to promote sale over their remaining meat (pork and chicken) counterparts.
Catering manager Paula White said the service didn’t follow the restaurant trend of simply labeling the food as vegetarian or vegan.
“If you go to most restaurants, they’ll put a ‘V’ for vegetarian or label something as vegan. We didn’t do that, we just put what’s in it,” she said.
“You use your eyes, your nose. If you look at something and think ‘Wow that looks good’, you’re not first of all thinking ‘Is there beef in that?”
What else could universities do to improve their environmental impact? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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