#PlantPoweredCommunity: plant-based food at public and social events

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Sharing food and meals is one of the oldest and most convivial activities in human society. Human society grew up, indeed, around food – and in order to make the obtaining and sharing of food easier and possibly more enjoyable. Every day, people still enjoy their food with others, both in private and public contexts.

Most of the world follows an omnivorous diet. Yet, animal-based foods consumption in particular is growing worldwide, with a consequent increase in meat-and-dairy production.[*]

Now, there’s a number of reasons which show that meat-and-dairy based diets are not sustainable. Here are some of the main ones:

  1. meat-and-dairy consumption is positively correlated with a number of health issues;[**]
  2. meat-and-dairy based diets tend to be significantly less resource-efficient and to produce significantly more waste;[***]
  3. the meat-and-dairy industry alone accounts for around 15% of total greenhouse gas emissions (equivalent to the whole transportation sector taken together), and has a direct, devastating effect on the environment, by directly causing deforestation, ocean acidification and depletion, species extinction and desertification;[+]
  4. the meat-and-dairy industry operate with procedures that any cat or dog owner would find simply outrageous and inhuman if implemented on their pets instead of cows, pigs and chickens.[++]

 Meat-and-dairy-based diets are also habits. Following a diet based on animal foods is the habit of getting most of one’s nutrients from animal products on a daily basis, around three times per day, every day. What makes animal-foods consumption non-sustainable is not the barbecue you had last summer. The problem is the daily and regular habitudinal consumption of meat-and-dairy on a long term basis.

Sharing a plant-based meal has clearly beneficial consequences, in terms of sustainability. It’s also relatively easy to arrange. Most omnivores are already familiar with plant-based food and they enjoyed it in the past (haven’t you ever eaten a vegetable soup? A bowl of rice or quinoa with legumes and seasonal greens? Never tried tofu, tempeh or seitan stir fry or stew? Never used almond or rice milk with oatmeal for breakfast? – If you haven’t you’re missing some very delicious and nutritious foods...). By having a plant-based meal, nobody is really depriving herself of something or throwing herself into the ‘unknown’. Plant-based foods are easily available in most restaurants, supermarkets, canteens and home kitchens. In fact, I bet that anybody reading this post has at least a few friends with whom she enjoyed a plant-based meal in the last week.

#PlantPoweredCommunity campaign aims to raise public sensitivity about the need to transitioning towards a more sustainable plant-based diet. It does so, by focusing on communities and gatherings of people as the key for this change.

By going for a plant-based meal together, we can better see, and demonstrate, that we do have the power and resources to progressively adopt more rational and sustainable habits. Moreover, by doing that together with others, we’re arguably going to produce a snowball effect that will impact and involve more people.

How to take action? It’s easy. If you subscribe to #PlantPoweredCommunity, then the next time (today, tomorrow, this week) you’re in charge of anything that concerns food (taking people out for a meal, organizing an event, designing the menu at your institution or facility etc.) then you do two things (see below for more practical tips about implementation):

(1)  ensure that the food offered is entirely plant-based;

(2)  ensure that you inform people of why the food is entirely plant-based and encourage them to do the same on the next occasion.

This will create a community of people who share a commitment to lower meat-and-dairy production and consumption – a community that is not based on deprivation of things we like, but on embracing other things that we like as well, which we can share together while being faithful to our own values and interests.

  

Tips for making a #PlantPoweredCommunity

1) Lead the change by sharing information about the #PlantPoweredCommunity.

=> It’s important to share publicly that you’re supporting a #PlantPoweredCommunity. You can do that in many ways: state on the webpage of your event that you support the campaign; add this statement to your email signature, or take five minutes at the opening of your event to explain why you support a #PlantPoweredCommunity.

2) You’re not alone: just ask for support!

=> There are many people just next door (e.g. at your local institution, or just among your friends) whom you can ask for advice about food choices and the best plant-based food options to offer at public events. Green offices, sustainability committees, friends with whom you’ve been for plant-based meals: these are all very good starting points for seeking a bit of advice and support. These people will probably be very happy to help you out, give practical tips and join you in supporting a #PlantPoweredCommunity.

3) Adapt the #PlantPoweredCommunity to different kinds of events:

A) You organize an event that does not require registration (e.g. drinks & snacks, casual parties, collective ceremonies):

=> Announce that you’ll provide plant-based food by default. If, for whatever practical reasons, it turns out to be difficult to avoid dairy and eggs entirely, make sure that the products that contain these ingredients are not more than 30-40% (i.e. significantly less than half) of the total food provided.

Extra Tip: if you have to rely on specific catering providers that are not specialized in plant-based food, discuss options with them in advance, talk them through your requirements and, if possible, try what they will offer in order to make sure that the food will be tasty, delicious and nutritious. Don’t be afraid of sharing your preferences with them, since they might not be familiar with them at all. It’s in the best interest of these catering providers to come up with the best food and keep their clients happy, so they’ll listen to you and they’ll accommodate!

B) You organize an event that does require preliminary registration (e.g. conference dinners, summer school lunches, group excursions):

=> Announce that you’ll provide plant-based food by default (as above) and ask participants to inform you if they have any dietary requirements, which may include non-plant-based food if they need that.

Extra Tip: if you’re organizing a meal at a restaurant, discuss the menu in advance with the restaurant manager or chéf. Several restaurants are specialized in plant-based food, but many can also easily adapt and provide ad hoc (and delicious!) menus for your plant-based events. Just make sure that, in this case, the food will not only be plant-based but also well-balanced from a nutritional point of view. A quick internet search (see e.g. happycow.net) will provide you with plenty of options nearby from which you can pick and choose the most convenient and plant-based friendly venue for your event.

4) Keep track of your progresses!

=> It’s important to keep track of how things move towards a #PlantPoweredCommunity. How did people react to your plant-based event? What was memorable? What could be improved next time? Your experience can help you at the next event, but it can also help and inspire other people. Share the experience and information with your contacts, colleagues and friends, and why not also on the page of the #PlantPoweredCommunity campaign here on Change.org. It would be lovely to hear about your initiatives!

 

Notes

[*] Statistics on meat consumption and production are available here.

[**] The main diseases positively correlated with high meat-and-dairy consumption are:

  1. Cardiovascular disease – see e.g.: here and here.   
  2. Obesity – see e.g.: here and here.
  3. Diabetes – see e.g.: here and here.
  4. Alzheimer’s and dementia – see e.g.: here and here.
  5. Cancer – see e.g.: here and here.

 Here is a free documentary that summarizes some of these findings. 

 [***] A good synthesis of the main reasons why high levels of meat-and-dairy production are unsustainable on a large scale is provided here

[+] For data and studies on the environmental impact of the meat-and-dairy industry (including fish) see: here, here, and here. For a documentary summarizing some of these results, see Cowspiracy.

[++] Yes, animals suffer when they are slaughtered, and there is no way of ‘efficiently’ raising billions of animals per year while also treating each of them ‘humanely’ (e.g. as you would treat your own pet). On this point, see Melanie Joy’s TEDx Talk on Carnism.

 

 



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