Until recently, if students had lunch on campus at the University of London’s Goldsmiths college, they might have ordered a burger, or spaghetti and meatballs, or Malaysian beef rendang. When the new semester begins, if those items show up on menus at the university’s cafeterias, they’ll be the vegan versions only: The school has banned the sale of beef.
It’s one step of several that the new head of the university is taking to tackle climate change. By December, the school will pull out of investments in companies that generate more than a tenth of their revenue from extracting fossil fuels. On campus, more solar panels will be installed on school buildings, and when the school’s current electricity contract ends, it will switch to 100% renewable energy. It’s planting trees and plants to help absorb more carbon. It’s also adding a small surcharge (about 10 cents) on bottled water. It aims to be fully carbon neutral by 2025.
Rethinking cafeteria menus is only one part of the plan, but it’s a meaningful step. Eating less beef has an impact: One 2018 study calculated that producing 100 grams of beef creates 105 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions, while 100 grams of tofu produces less than 3.5 kilograms. One of the authors argues that eating less meat and dairy is the most impactful decision that someone can make for the climate in their individual lives. The university’s cafés already offered vegan choices, something that’s becoming easier for restaurants as the quality of plant-based meat improves from companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. But now beef at Goldsmiths will no longer be an option (though other meats are still on the menu).
“Declaring a climate emergency cannot be empty words,” Frances Corner, the Goldsmiths warden, said in a statement. “I truly believe we face a defining moment in global history and Goldsmiths now stands shoulder to shoulder with other organizations willing to call the alarm and take urgent action to cut carbon use.”