On average, food accounts for around 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Consumers, company restaurants and school canteens can also contribute towards climate protection in many cases. But what constitutes sustainable food? How can we put this into practice in everyday life and establish it in the gastronomy sector? And how can environmentally friendly farming be supported? The Wuppertal Institute's new "Zukunfstsimpuls" entitled "Designing Sustainable Food Systems and Consumption Patterns" provides answers to these questions and gives recommendations to politicians, businesses and society at large.
The out-of-home gastronomy sector – such as company restaurants, school canteens and hospital kitchens – plays a decisive role in terms of the food transition, because it serves a total of nearly 40 million meals a day. "The potential of the out-of-home gastronomy sector has been underestimated until now, and we must make much better use of it," urges Melanie Speck. Even minor changes, such as smaller portions of meat per serving, can have a positive impact. "Catering services in canteens and refectories therefore play a key role. If they offer sustainable dishes, they represent reliable customers for farmers and sustainable manufacturers, and increase demand for sustainable products," the scientist explains. This expands the range of more environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable catering on offer to consumers – while simultaneously opening up new culinary worlds to them.
Sustainable nutrition in private households
Alongside restaurateurs, other stakeholders are being asked to contribute to successfully transforming the food system. The "Zukunftsimpuls" also gives recommendations for politicians, farmers, businesses and scientists, as well as tips on adopting a sustainable lifestyle, explaining what every single individual can do to achieve this. In this regard, the authors rank the impact of climate tips such as eating meat versus a vegan diet, amongst other things. Because what actually reduces carbon emissions is often unclear: is it using your own shopping bags, buying local fruit and vegetables or adopting a vegan diet? The table below shows us, for example, that a vegan diet saves around 1.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalents and simply switching to plant-based milk alternatives makes a difference of about 70 kilograms of CO2 equivalents.
In order to give everyone the opportunity to scrutinise their own decisions and use their own initiative, for example, the "Zukunftsimpuls" recommends that schools, universities and businesses in the out-of-home gastronomy sector should communicate clear information for consumers and turn sustainable food into a tangible experience. This could include summarising the climate impact of individual foodstuffs or dishes on the till receipt or selling meals that are climate-friendly and promote biodiversity. The authors emphasise that political and social frameworks form the foundation for healthier, environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable food becoming established in the wider community. To this end, food and meals that are produced in a resource-efficient and climate-friendly way should be cheaper and easier to access than less sustainable alternatives.
"Zukunftsimpuls" No. 19 "Designing Sustainable Food Systems and Consumption Patterns" is available in English via the following link.