Canteens, a good lever for reducing the carbon footprint?

Let’s make a vegetarian option mandatory

Elyne Etienne

In charge of the canteen file at the Vegetarian Association of France

As we know, animal husbandry – and therefore the meat that the French eat – plays an important role in our carbon footprint. First, because ruminants emit methane, a gas that warms more than CO2 ; then because to feed the animals, to produce soybeans for example, we use land, often resulting from deforestation. A study by Greenpeace has shown that if 25% of pupils took a vegetarian meal (i.e. one obligatory vegetarian meal per week), emissions linked to food in canteens would be reduced by 14% to 19%.

As we can see, eating less meat would be a real lever for ecology. My association proposes to make compulsory, from 2025, a daily vegetarian option in all collective catering. Thus, the guests would be free to choose their meal, but always having access to a menu without meat or fish. It would not be restrictive for people but educational. One way to “normalize” large-scale vegetarian meals, in schools but also retirement homes, businesses, etc.


We must not impose anything

Jean-Michel Lecerf

Nutritionist, head of the nutrition department of the Institut Pasteur de Lille

There are a lot of cartoons on breeding and its impact in France. Our farmers care more about the environment and animal welfare than is often said. We can, of course, offer vegetarian menus in the canteens, but nothing should be imposed. When it comes to food, there is nothing worse than diktats.

The real lever, to have a healthy relationship with food – both in terms of health and ecology – is to do education. Leave the choice to people by reminding them that eating is good and that only excess is a problem: excess meat, such as all-vegetable excess. This approach is all the more important with regard to children, who are easily influenced.

It makes no sense to discredit any food. And that does damage to society. If you accuse meat lovers of destroying the environment, of wiping out orangutans because of deforestation, you disrupt the relationship with food, which then ceases to play one of its fundamental roles: to bring us together. Basically, the real risk is there: making food a place of discord, even though it must be a place of sharing, relationship, joy, pleasure!


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