Guest blog from Coolfood experts at the World Resources Institute.
Serving low-carbon food is quickly becoming a sustainability priority for many leading hospitality companies. It’s also a rather delicious way to engage with guests and diners. Here, we explain why reducing food-related emissions is so critical, as well as sharing a few ways for hospitality companies to act now.
Reducing Diet-Related Emissions Is Key to Meeting Global Climate Targets

Our diets are a giant source of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. The food system is responsible for up to one-third of global emissions every year, with animal-based foods (especially beef and lamb) accounting for two-thirds of those emissions.

But where there’s a challenge, there’s also an opportunity. World Resources Institute (WRI) – the global research organization behind trusted initiatives such as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol – has found that shifting our diets toward more plants and away from ruminant meat could reduce annual emissions by 2.5 gigatons CO2e/ year by 2050, nearly eliminating the need for further agricultural expansion. The group’s research also shows that by cutting meat consumption in half, the average person can have a carbon footprint similar to that of a vegetarian.

That’s good news because many diners don’t want to eat a fully vegan or vegetarian diet. Roughly 86% of the global population report that their diet contains meat. This gives the hospitality industry a chance to do what it does best – deliver a welcoming experience that brings more guests and diners into the movement for eating healthy, sustainable diets.

Three Strategies to Try Now

In January 2024, Coolfood – WRI’s initiative to curb diet-related emissions by 25% by 2030 – will release the second edition of its landmark Playbook for Guiding Diners Toward Plant-Rich Dishes in Food Service. This go-to guide of behavioral science strategies was first published in 2020. While you will have to wait until the New Year to see the full list of 90 behaviour change techniques to influence diners’ food choices, here are three to start considering now:

  • Give Plant-Rich Dishes Indulgent Names. What language you use to describe a dish plays a big role in whether diners will find it appetizing enough to order. Try adding in the provenance of the dish into its name, describe its flavour profile, and let diners know the dish’s texture and feel. After all, “creamy smoked eggplant with za’atar-spiced crisps” sounds more crave-worthy than “eggplant dip and pita chips,” right?
  • Blend in Plants. Swapping mushrooms for some beef in a burger adds a juicy, umami hit to any menu. But beyond great flavor, replacing beef with mushrooms also lowers the carbon footprint of that burger. Doing so also helps burger-lovers eat more climate-friendly, while not missing out on any of the foods they love. Mushrooms aren’t the only option to work into traditionally meat-heavy dishes, though – lentils and many other vegetables will work too.
  • Increase Your Ratio of Plant-Rich Dishes to Meat-Dishes. By changing the ratio of meat to veg dishes (in favour of vegetable-heavy dishes) on a menu, you’re providing diners more of what they love – choice. That means they are more likely to find a low-carbon dish that appeals to them. You also help them feel that these climate-friendly menu items are normal – not something different that should be avoided.