Replacing meat-based catering menus with plant-based menus can reduce the carbon footprint by 10 tons of greenhouse gas equivalents for a 500-person event, according to a new report by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). The ”Catering to the Climate” report evaluated the environmental impact of common event menus and plant-based alternatives and found that offering earth-friendly, plant-based menus can save five acres of habitat from animal agriculture, avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those created by driving a car 22,000 miles, prevent 17 tons of manure pollution, and conserve nearly 100,000 gallons of water from irrigation and food processing. For the menu calculation analysis, the CBD compiled detailed recipes for a conventional foods menu and one with a selection of “low-impact” dishes. When comparing the impact of both menus, environmental impact factors for climate change, land use, water use, and manure production were estimated for all major foods and food categories. On average, the CBD found that low-impact meals reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent at lunch and dinner. The CBD also surveyed 25 event planners and venues and found that 83 percent of respondents favored creating an entirely plant-based menu or a default vegetarian menu (with the option for attendees to opt-in for a meat or dairy item). “Our analysis found that replacing animal products with plant-based ingredients consistently improves food sustainability at all meals for catered events. Small changes in purchasing, such as replacing dairy with plant-based milks and cheeses, can have substantial effects on sustainability, climate change, and health and wellness goals for suppliers and their clients,” the report says. “The environmental savings of low-impact menus are enormous, and the public demand for these menus is rapidly growing. It’s time for the event and catering industry to reduce its environmental footprint by taking advantage of delicious, affordable plant-based meals.”

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