For many years, ASDC has been leading by example in striving for largely non-meat catering at the vast majority of our national events. Some of these, for example our conference, attract 200 people for 2 days and the carbon impact of food on this scale is considerable.
Largely we have asked for vegetarian or pescatarian. At first, it was quite hard, as many venues didn’t have suitable menus within their standard offer. However, by talking with the chef and teams at each venue each time we held an event, and explaining our reasons in relation to climate and the environment, the chefs at the venues came up with much tastier vegan, vegetarian and fish options.
Sometimes we did add in meat (eg chicken) for the real carnivores, for example as one option at a Gala dinner. The response to delicious vegetarian food has been overwhelmingly positive, with guest giving the food a excellent rating, with comments such as delicious imaginative fresh food. The only times this was not the case, was where we didn’t speak direct with the chef.
Likewise we have always asked for jugs of tap water not bottled water, and definitely no plastic bottles of water.
ASDC have also chosen our conference venues based on their ease for people across the UK to reach by train. ASDC’s very first conference was in Halifax, hosted by Eureka! The National Children’s Museum around 2012. Other than being a brilliant member centre, Halifax was chosen as it is right in the centre of the country, and right next to the Train Station. They also already had a great vegan and vegetarian offer.
Almost always the fastest trains are in and out of London, so we have had about half our conferences there.
So many of us in Public engagement host and run sizable meetings and large conferences and have the power to take this easy step – for events big and small. The more we can all insist on low carbon food and travel the better. At the start we worried about causing catering teams extra work, however we have been told by several of these teams they found our approach inspiring and it liberated them to try new ideas and the options they developed for ASDC now form part of their standard menu and are very popular.
A quick calculation shows that just serving two small hamburger-sized piece of beef at our national conference, over 10 years, would have used the same amount of carbon as driving for 70,000 miles or 80 return flights to Malaga.
Just think how many kg of carbon you could so easily save in this way.
The same is true if you have a cafe for visitors, especially if you communicate with visitors why you are doing it and how much the science tells us to reduce our carbon consumption.