Cross-sector Partnership Aims To Reduce Food-related Carbon Emissions

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is leading a new partnership between national and New York City-based institutions to reduce food-related carbon emissions. The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge aims to reducing food-related carbon emissions in the private sector by 25 percent by 2030.

The city’s integrated greenhouse gas inventory found that 20 percent of New York City’s overall emissions comes from the production and consumption of food. The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge partners are committing to procuring and serving more plant-based foods, which have a significantly lower carbon footprint than animal-sourced foods.

The commitments made by Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge partners have the potential to reduce emissions by nearly 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year — the equivalent of removing approximately 100 million car miles from New York City streets or planting 45 thousand acres of forest.

“In order to tackle the climate crisis, we need to take control of our plates,” said Mayor Adams. “We’re committed to doing our part as a city, but we can’t do it alone. Our Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge partners are stepping up to cut down on their food-related emissions, create a more sustainable food system, deliver nutritional equity and food justice for all, and make New York City healthier and greener. New York City is leading the way in reimagining our food system, and we’re grateful to our partners for taking a leading role in building a more sustainable future.”

In December, Columbia University became the first official signatory of the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge. Students participating in a capstone project in the undergraduate Sustainable Development Program found that ruminant meat products, while just 13 percent by weight of a dining hall’s procurement, accounted for 72 percent of its carbon footprint. Since signing on to the challenge, Columbia Dining has already begun to incorporate changes to its operations, like offering plant-based menus at the main action station two to three times a week, rather than restricting them to the vegan station.

Recent menu highlights include mushroom bolognese pasta, shitake mushroom and roasted sweet potato quesadillas, and red bean curry served over rice. For the first time in the school’s history, Columbia showcased an entirely plant-based menu at the “Battle of the Dining Halls,” a spring competition between the five student dining halls to produce the tastiest signature dish judged by students and celebrity chefs.

“Columbia University is proud to be the first institution to sign on to New York City’s Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge,” said Cas Holloway, chief operating officer, Columbia University.

“We know that scope 3 emissions, including food procurement, have a critical role to play in achieving our Plan 2030 goals. The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge provides a framework to accelerate the work already underway to create more sustainable dining options on campus. We are excited to join the mayor’s office and our fellow partners in setting a new standard for climate-smart food service in New York City.”

The following organizations have signed on to the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge:

  • Aramark
  • Columbia University
  • Fordham University
  • Great Performances
  • Harvest
  • Morrison Healthcare
  • The Good Eating Company
  • The New York Botanical Garden
  • The Rockefeller Foundation
  • The Rockefeller University
  • Thomas Preti Events to Savor
  • Wildlife Conservation Society/ Bronx Zoo

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