Conscious menu choices

As part of the Trust’s ongoing commitment to become carbon neutral for all in-house activities by March 2023, the carbon footprint of our catering is being reviewed.

Limiting waste and emissions are the most obvious ways we can reduce our environmental impact, but what people often overlook is the effect of producing our food.

Looking at foods very simplistically, a diet that’s high in meat is also high in emissions. However the carbon impact of food is far from simple: the distance food has travelled and the mode of transport can mean certain fruits and vegetables have high carbon footprints. For instance air freighted food has a higher footprint than more robust foods that can be cargo-shipped, and the way they are grown also needs to be taken into consideration. There is a lot to think about when it comes to the contents of your plate.

We have built a simple spreadsheet model to help us evaluate the carbon impact of the meal, taking into account the actual ingredients we used, where the growers come from and the carbon status of the supplier. Where possible we are using local and UK grown and produced ingredients from suppliers who are carbon neutral. This approach was first applied to help us make conscious decisions for menu choices for the first meeting of the Court of Wardens and Assistants in 2022.

For the main menu, this led to a reduction in embodied carbon from 7.9kg to 1.85kg per lunch – this compares the menu in November 2021 with that in February 2022.

The big difference was achieved by having a vegetarian starter and changing the main course from farmed venison to chicken. We also looked at the balance between protein and vegetables, also avoiding some particularly high carbon carbohydrate items and controlling the amount of dairy. And the food was delicious!

We have also switched to English wine. There is still more to do in this area – for instance we have since sourced carbon-neutral coffee and other items – but we are pleased with this initial progress.

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