UK’s leading vegan charity launches petition to prioritise carbon footprints on menus over calories

  • Vegan charity, Viva!, is calling for menus to prioritise carbon footprint labelling as a matter of urgency as the climate crisis grows
  • Encouraging signatures through a first-of-its kind petition, Viva! hopes to prevent mass extinction and global deforestation by raising awareness of the UK’s diet that is currently ‘Eating the Earth’
  • With meat, dairy, fish and eggs considerably more carbon intensive than vegan alternatives, Viva! is calling for awareness of the connection between food choices and planet impact 
  • Recent research proves that menus displaying carbon footprints encouraged more vegan choices – resulting in less carbon emissions
  • Viva! contend that carbon footprint labelling is much more urgent than displaying calories on menus
  • Restaurants that serve meat refused to take part in this trial – highlighting that government intervention is crucial to ensure carbon counts are present
  • Carbon labelling is now accessible for restaurants through affordable providers such as My Emissions

Bristol – The UK’s largest vegan campaigning charity, Viva!, has today launched a first-of-its-kind petition to  add carbon footprints to menus, to raise awareness of the impact that eating meat has on the planet in comparison to vegan alternatives.

The call for change comes in response to recent research by the University of Würzburg which found that menus displaying carbon ‘foodprints’ encouraged diners to opt for plant-based or vegetarian options when eating out, as well as the growing urgency of the climate crisis.

With meat, dairy, fish and eggs having a considerably higher negative impact on the planet than vegan alternatives, Viva! demands for more awareness of the link between our food choices and the environment.

The urgency to act, coupled with controversial debate arising in the hospitality sector, suggests displaying carbon calculations on menus is significantly more important to the health of the UK and the planet than calories at this pivotal moment in time.

Given that eating just one beef burger can generate as much as 3.05kg CO2e[1] per serving – that’s the equivalent of driving the average UK petrol car for over 10 miles – compared to just 0.3kg CO2e[2] from its vegan alternative, Viva! is asking people to sign its petition to make this information clearly available in restaurants through menus.[3] As seen with calories becoming mandatory on menus the government can implement industry wide rules to inform people on their eating habits.

Given the urgency of the climate and wildlife extinction crises, the government needs to step-in and make carbon labelling on menus mandatory. Viva! states that meat restaurants will not cooperate with the labelling because they know the carbon footprint of animal products is considerably higher than that of vegan dishes. Viva!’s trial suggests this is true, as all restaurants that served meat refused to take part. Government intervention is required to encourage the public take easy steps to help save our planet.

Looking at popular meat-based dishes in the UK[4] and the difference in carbon footprint their vegan counterparts have, it’s clear to see why switching to a vegan diet is described as ‘The single biggest way to reduce your impact,’ by Joseph Poore, climate researcher at the University of Oxford. If everyone was to go vegan, it’s predicted we could reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds and still provide enough food for everyone on the planet.[5]

The UK’s diet of meat, fish, dairy and eggs requires a land area equivalent to the size of 61.5 million football pitches which could be reduced by 74 per cent if the population chooses a vegan lifestyle, research by Viva! suggests. Due to large-scale animal farming and over consumption in the UK, this land use is resulting in the rapid decline of wildlife worldwide, including Jaguars, Sloths, Toucans, Toucans, and Bumblebees.

With the planet facing its biggest challenge yet, Viva! launched its Eating the Earth campaign this summer to raise awareness of the impact that eating meat has on the planet. The charity worked with carbon calculator calculations and labelling provider My Emissions to partner with restaurants in Bristol to trial the influence menus can have on our food choices first hand.

“It is imperative that we act now if we want to save our planet, and it’s clear that a vegan diet is the best way for an individual to make a difference” said Laura Hellwig, Managing Director at Viva!

“Raising awareness of the carbon footprints from the production of meat, dairy, fish and eggs is crucial – a lot of people have no idea that eating one beef burger can be as damaging as driving the average UK petrol car for 10 miles.

“We’ve partnered with My Emissions, as well as a local restaurant in Bristol, to understand just how much impact carbon labels on our menus can have and to help diners realise the connection between what they’re eating and the environment.

“It’s been really interesting to see the responses from different restaurants. Unsurprisingly, those with meat on the menu have so far declined to take part.

My Emissions offers a simple and affordable carbon calculation service to companies across the food sector, such as restaurants, caterers, and food brands looking to reduce their impact on the planet.

Matthew Isaacs, Co-Founder of My Emissions, said: “Climate change is the problem of our generation, and eating more low carbon food is one of the best ways we can reduce our impact on the planet.

“We hope our partnership with Viva! and The Canteen will inspire more local businesses to adopt food carbon labelling and help their customers make more sustainable choices.”

The Canteen, based in Bristol, has been the first restaurant to take part in a first-of-its-kind carbon counting trial this month – placing carbon footprints on each dish to encourage diners to consider the difference their vegan choices make on the planet.

Dr Matthew Harris, Head Chef at The Canteen, said: “Including carbon footprints on menus is a positive step in encouraging people to be more aware of the impact of their choices.

“We are delighted with the carbon calculations of our menu, made up of predominantly vegan dishes, showing the importance of sustainable choices.

“If carbon labelling was rolled out across the UK, we’d see restaurants and customers encouraged to make better decisions around the food they consume.”