On the 14th June, we're asking everyone in Oxfordshire to #SwitchUpYourLunch with our annual veg pledge. For the third year running, the campaign is asking people, companies, schools, universities and community groups in Oxfordshire to pledge to eat a vegetarian or vegan lunch.
Food makes up around 43% of the total ecological footprint of Oxfordshire (Moore 2019) and by eating more plants and less meat, eggs and dairy – and ensuring those are the highest possible quality, produced locally and using agroecological farming methods – we can significantly reduce this impact. According to the Food Foundation, greenhouse gas emissions from food could drop by 17% if our diets met dietary standards, which means that huge reductions in our carbon footprint could be achieved through eating less meat and more veg.
Reducing intake of animal products and eating more veg would also be better for our health: The latest Peas Please Veg Facts 2021 revealed that 77% of adults eat less than the amount of veg recommended by the Eatwell Guide, and that diets low in veg and legumes are associated with 18,000 premature deaths in the UK each year.
This year's veg pledge coincides with the ongoing Meat The Future exhibition at the Oxford University Natural History Museum. The exhibition draws attention to how the consumption of meat affects our health and the planet. It's on for the rest of this year, so make sure to visit.
As part of #SwitchUpYourLunch, we're not simply asking people to go plant-based, but more generally to be mindful of the links between food and the climate. Eating more local and seasonal food, less processed food, producing food in organic and agro-ecological farming systems, eating more veg and reducing animal products are all part of the solution. The idea of the pledge is to make a difference with one meal, but also to draw attention to how food production, food choices and climate change are linked.
A bit of local history: Did you know that this is the third year we're running the #SwitchUpYourLunch veg pledge? The legacy goes further back though, for instance with this veg pledge we ran in 2016 as part of Low Carbon Oxford Week:
Switch Up Your Lunch is a join campaign of green business network Oxfordshire Greentech and Good Food Oxford and is supported by Oxfordshire County Council, Low Carbon Hub, Women in Sustainability Oxford Hub, Oxford University, several District Councils and many other organisations.
"We’ve made tackling the climate emergency a key priority and it is our aim for South Oxfordshire to be a carbon neutral district by 2030. Reducing our meat consumption is just one small action that people can take, and something that could make a real difference if enough people do it."
Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council