lreisch1_Christian Charisiuspicture alliance via Getty Images_vegetarianvegancafeteria Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images

Defaulting to Plant-Based Foods

There is no denying that consumers will need to eat less meat to reduce food systems’ greenhouse-gas emissions. One way to accelerate the dietary shift is to implement default policies in restaurants and cafes that harness the power of suggestion, people’s inertia, and their quest for convenience to promote plant-based meals.

CAMBRIDGE – The catastrophic effects of climate change are here: blistering and deadly heat waves are scorching Europe, and the poles are melting, with sea-ice growth in Antarctica reaching unprecedented lows. Is there anything individuals can do about it?

The answer is a resounding yes. What we eat, in particular, matters a great deal. The claim that “cows are the new coal” may seem hyperbolic, but it is essentially accurate. Roughly a third of all demand-side greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions are from food systems, and beef alone accounts for a quarter of emissions produced by raising and growing food.

Moreover, the real price of animal-based meals does not reflect their carbon footprint and the resulting cost of mitigation efforts. Research shows that a shift toward plant-based diets, or to less environmentally harmful meats such as fish and chicken, would be better for people and the planet.

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