The Low-Carbon “Cool Food” Movement Brings Wins in Fight Against Climate Change
New York City, New York (September 21, 2022) – Today, Cool Food announced that early adopters of the Cool Food Pledge have reduced food-related greenhouse gas emissions per plate by 21% through 2021. The group has achieved this reduction by serving more low-carbon plant-based dishes and creating enabling environments for diners to make climate friendly choices. This puts the cohort of food providers well ahead of the pace needed to achieve the Pledge’s targets of reducing absolute emissions by 25%, and emissions per plate by 38%, by 2030.
Cool Food is a ground-breaking initiative from World Resources Institute that helps major food providers use cutting-edge environmental and behavioral science to scale healthy, climate-friendly meals that benefit people and the planet. Its members span food service companies, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, cities, and universities predominantly across Europe and North America, but also with locations in Latin America, Asia, and Australia.
“The food system is responsible for up to one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it mission critical to reduce food-related emissions,” said Anne Bordier, Director of Sustainable Diets at WRI. “The challenge is how to scale action to achieve the level of emissions reduction that’s needed. We need many more organizations to set a target to reduce the climate impact of the food they serve, measure progress and take action to encourage a consumption shift to lower impact food.”
The early adopter cohort, which uses 2015 to 2018 as a baseline data period and serves more than 840 million meals per year, saw its absolute food-related emissions drop by 23% through 2021. But because the COVID-19 pandemic led to large fluctuations in food purchasing throughout 2020 and 2021, WRI considers emissions per plate to be the most meaningful climate metric until food service operations return to full capacity.
“When food providers make even small changes to what they buy and serve, they can see sizeable reductions in their food-related GHG emissions,” said Edwina Hughes, Head of Cool Food at WRI. “We’ve now reached a point with our early adopters that we can see the scale of emissions reduction that’s possible when food providers commit to serving low carbon foods. The future of climate action really is happening on diners’ plates.”
Cool Food released these figures at Climate Week at its annual celebration, where New York City Mayor Eric Adams and senior leaders from Aramark, IKEA, New York University, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center shared how they are championing low-carbon dining as part of Cool Food. Guests were treated to an immersive pop-up food hall to experience some of the ways to engage consumers in eating more climate-friendly choices.
Since its launch in 2019, Cool Food's total membership has grown to include 63 organizations. In the past year alone, the size of the Cool Food movement more than doubled, showing the emphasis that more companies and food providers are placing on food as a key strategy to address the climate crisis.
The Cool Food movement’s newest members include the city of Washington, DC and Bon Appétit Management Company.
“The District is taking the next step in doing our part by tackling the carbon footprint of what we buy, starting with the meals we serve to our students and seniors,” said DC Department of Energy & Environment Director Tommy Wells. “Our vision for a Sustainable DC is a healthy, green, livable city for all residents. We are proud to join the Cool Food movement that prioritizes purchasing high-quality, nutritious meals that are also helping to grow our local green economy and fight climate change.”“At Bon Appétit Management Company, we depend on World Resources Institute’s data resources to help us track emissions impacts and drive change in our cafés nationwide,” says Chief Strategy and Brand Officer Maisie Ganzler. “We are pleased to be part of the Cool Food movement and extend our longstanding commitment to mitigating the food system’s role in climate change.”
With its rapidly increasing membership, the Cool Food movement now encompasses food providers serving approximately 3.5 billion meals every year. If the full group of Cool Food Pledge members hit the 25% absolute GHG reduction target by 2030, it would reduce annual emissions by nearly 6.4 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year – an amount that equates to removing more than 1.3 million vehicles from the road, or all of the registered vehicles in Chicago. The movement, which aims to cover 12 billion meals by 2025, is demonstrating the power of changing what we eat to address the climate crisis.
Learn more at CoolFood.org. For a full look at data from the Cool Food Pledge, visit: CoolFood.org/PledgeUpdate2021/.
About World Resources Institute
World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that turns big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. Our more than 1,700 experts and staff work in 60 countries, with international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, regional offices in Ethiopia (for Africa) and the Netherlands (for Europe), and program offices in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. More information at www.wri.org or on Twitter @WorldResources.