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Growing Green: Why UvA Should Commit to Plant-Based Catering

How do you feel about having the chance to revolutionize UvA’s cafeteria? Launched in late 2021, Plant-Based Universities is an Animals Rising campaign urging universities to adopt 100% ethical and sustainable plant-based catering, aiming to address the climate and biodiversity crises. 

As Green Office representatives we strive to make change in any way we see fit, and this plant-based movement offers a variety of benefits that contribute to shaping a future we want to see. This student-led campaign has achieved incredible support for fully plant-based transitions at nine universities internationally including the Universities of Cambridge and Stirling, and currently have active campaigns in over 70 other universities both in the UK and abroad. If this initiative doesn’t appeal to you immediately, allow us to list some reasons that may change your mind, plant a seed of reconsideration, or at the very least inform you on the potential benefits of such a movement.

  1. Environmental Sustainability

Transitioning to fully plant-based catering reduces the overall environmental footprint by conserving water and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-based food production requires less natural resources and less energy, therefore contributing to a decreased carbon footprint, greater environmental longevity, and a meaningful push towards sustainability. Animal-based food production involves the raising and cultivation of livestock which are primary sources of detrimental greenhouse gases like methane being released in the atmosphere. Methane is one of the largest contributors to global warming and of all the methane produced in the Netherlands, 70% comes from livestock. Not counting for the emissions of any other livestock, 1.5 billion cattle, raised specifically for meat production worldwide, emit at least 231 billion pounds of methane into the atmosphere each year (Our World in Data). Plant-based meat substitutes for example, have on average 50% lower environmental impact. 

  1. Cost Effectiveness

Plant-based ingredients, such as grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, tend to be less expensive than animal-based products like meat, dairy, and eggs. This can lead to cost savings in purchasing food supplies for catering operations. Plant-based foods have lower production costs often attributed to requiring fewer resources and generate less waste to animal agriculture through shorter production cycles and lower rates of spoilage. Food waste is a big concern with regards to animal-based products, and a larger focus on continued waste reduction can save money on disposal costs, is extremely significant in achieving circularity, and can inspire effective strategies to aid the government’s circular dutch economy goals by 2050. In regards to the UvA cafeteria, plant-based foods can also reduce preparation costs; not only saving money but also time. 

  1. Health Benefits and Educational Opportunity

There is a massive amount of research supporting plant-based diets in relation to health benefits like lower blood pressure, a decreased risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, and even higher life expectancy. In 2020, two studies found that following a mostly plant-based diet can improve longevity. According to Harvard Health Publishing, not only do plant-based diets provide all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals but are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients. Fun fact: studies have found that plant-based diets can also promote cognitive health as opposed to just physical with reductions in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. 

Overall, embracing a potential transition to plant-based catering provides an opportunity for UvA to educate the student community about the benefits of sustainable and ethical food choices and can inspire other universities and institutions to make a change and support a brighter future. Universities are vehicles for cultural change housing endless opportunities to make a difference. With the plant-based movement surging across universities in the UK, maybe it's time for UvA to start paving a path towards green growth that could ultimately inspire other universities around the world to follow suit.

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