Canteens: Speech by corsus on the environmental impact of nutrition

What are the characteristics of environmentally friendly and health-promoting communal catering? How can kitchens and guests be won over for such catering? And how are the general conditions, the guests’ wishes and the fundamental orientation of company and university catering currently changing? corsus provided information on the environmental impact of food at the final event of ‘umEssKantine’.

On 31 March 2022, the digital final event of the umEssKantine research project, which was commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), took place. Dr. Ulrike Eberle from corsus informed about the environmental impact of nutrition, which – if we would follow the recommendations of the Eat Lancet Commission for a diet for the benefit of the planet (Planetary Health Diet) – could be greatly reduced compared to today.

For example, with a flexitarian diet, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by a quarter and the land use footprint would be 20 per cent smaller. The impact in terms of water scarcity, on the other hand, would increase by 45 percent. This is even more evident with a vegetarian or vegan diet: greenhouse gas emissions and the land footprint could be almost halved, but the impact on water scarcity would increase by 75 percent. The reason for higher greenhouse gas emissions and higher land consumption lies in the proportion of meat and other animal products. The more meat there is in the diet, the higher the land consumption and the higher the greenhouse gas emissions caused. With water, on the other hand, the opposite is true. In particular, the consumption of plant products increases water consumption, but also the impact on water scarcity. However, what matters most here is which plant products are consumed and where they are sourced from. In Germany, this is mainly determined by the consumption of citrus fruits and almonds, which could certainly be at least partially replaced by other products or could be sourced from origins that are less threatened by water scarcity. Nevertheless, experts assume that freshwater consumption will increase slightly if the consumption of plant-based foods increases.

In addition to the composition of meals, environmental impacts can also be reduced in communal catering by reducing food waste. Food waste accounts for about 20 per cent of the environmental impact in out-of-home consumption and 72 per cent of food waste is considered avoidable in this sector.

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