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Lead the way on the climate and nature crisis through food

Tilly Jarvis
May 17, 2021

SOS-UK has written a sustainable food guide for universities, colleges, students’ unions and students in collaboration with Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming.

When it comes to the climate emergency and the nature crisis we can’t ignore food. How and what we farm, fish, eat and dispose of accounts for a third of greenhouse gas emissions and these are also some of the biggest contributors to the loss of nature.

Intensive meat production is one of the main causes of food related carbon emissions and intensive farming and fishing practices are the main drivers of biodiversity loss on land and at sea.

Students want change. In our recent survey, over three quarters of the students said they would be willing to change their diet to reduce their environmental impact and 71% said it was important, or very important, that the food available on campus at their university contributes positively to health, the environment and producers.

There are many ways to ensure food on campuses is good for the climate, good for nature and also good for the health and wellbeing of students.

"The tertiary education sector can, and should, lead the way on food justice. Our research shows that almost three quarters of students would feel proud of their university if the food available on campus contributed positively to their health, the environment and producers. Students have the right to food that is good for them, good for the people that produce it, and that doesn’t contribute to the climate or nature crisis." Larissa Kennedy, NUS and SOS-UK President.

SOS-UK sustainable food guide

Our sustainable food guide outlines 8 key actions institutions can take, and 15 actions students can take, with links to numerous resources and additional information for each action.

Eight key actions institutions can take:

1.    Commit to phasing out industrially produced meat and dairy

2.    Commit to only serving and selling demonstrably sustainable fish

3.    Eliminate all avoidable food waste and compost the remainder

4.    Make seasonal, local, ethically produced,plant-based food the default option

5.    Provide professional training for chefs and catering students on the links between climate, nature & health and the food they purchase, prepare and serve

6.    Provide opportunities for all students to grow food and to learn how to cook in fun and accessible settings

7.    Explore ways to make sustainable food the more affordable option

8.    Contribute to creating a better food system in the UK

Some of the actions students can take:

·        Choose more and better produced plant-based foods

·        Choose less and better produced meat, fish and dairy

·        Choose Fairtrade where possible

·        Avoiding overly processed food, drinks and snacks

·        Use water fountains rather than bottled drinks

·        Always carry reusable drink and food containers with you

·        Grow some of your own food

·        Campaign for food justice

For more details about why food is so interrelated to the climate, nature loss, and our health, and what needs to be done to reduce negative impacts, read our full sustainable food guide.