Worcester and London universities to trial sustainable diets behaviour change programme

Staff and students at the University of Worcester

Canteens at the universities will join caterers Artizian and Fooditude in trialling methods to encourage staff and students to purchase more sustainable meal choices.

With the European Union’s food chain accounting for around 30% of European carbon emissions and an excessive amount of water use, the three-year SU-Eatable Life project acts as a demonstrator for reducing the carbon emissions and water use related to food consumption.

Funded by the European Commission’s LIFE fund, and delivered in the UK by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), the project will see the universities and caterers utilise behaviour change tools to help at least 5,000 customers purchase more sustainable meal choices.

The SRA’s chief executive Andrew Stephen said: “Two years in the planning and working both with our project partners in Europe as well as the four participating sites, we believe we’ve created a programme that will demonstrate it is possible to effect significant changes in eating habits with positive outcomes for canteen and workplace restaurant users and the planet.

“We are confident that we will also learn the most effective ways of achieving these changes to eating habits which offers huge potential for wider impact, creating delicious solutions to climate change.”

The SRA will promote the greenApes app to educate consumers on food choices, while point of sale marketing will be used on location to further sway purchasing decisions. The four-month trial will be measured by shifts in both sales and procurement.

The SRA believes that educating 5,000 customers could help reduce annual carbon emissions by 5,300 tonnes and water use by two million cubic metres. If the project was rolled out across the European Union, more than 200 billion litres of water and 535Mt of CO2 emissions (more than 50% of the UK’s entire net emissions) could be saved.

The SRA and its partners in the project, Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition, Wageningen University will oversee the project’s progress.

Tastiest challenge

Last year, the SRA called on foodservice firms across the country to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change, in a report titled The Tastiest Challenge on the Planet. It revealed that the UK hospitality trade has not reacted fast enough on key sustainability issues. It is currently ranked twenty-fourth in the global food sustainability league table, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition Foundation.

The SRA also wants accelerated changes in line with targets set by WRAP in its Plastics Pact and Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, as well as the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Pledge. These targets aim to cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030 and food waste by 25% by 2025 respectively. 

Elsewhere, research conducted on behalf of Champions 12.3, the coalition of government, business and civil society leaders which aim to accelerate progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of halving global food waste by 2030, has found catering firms can save $6 for every $1 they spend on action to tackle food waste.

Matt Mace

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