The earth has been facing worsening climate crises, here in Canada and elsewhere. The situation is so dire that UN Secretary General António Guterres had issued a Code Red alert for humanity in August 2021. At that time the Secretary General had stated that We must act decisively now to keep 1.5°C alive. We are already at 1.2°C and rising.” 

Almost 3 years since that warning – and far earlier than scientists predicted – the Earth’s global temperature has already surpassed the internationally agreed upon warming threshold of 1.5°C for an entire 12-month period with February 2023 to January 2024, running at 1.52°C.  And February 2024 has come in at 1.77°C degrees above the pre-industrial average! The world and its leaders are not doing enough. Accelerated and more profound impactful actions are required. 

The UN World Water Development Report 2023 (updated Feb 2024) states that there is an imminent risk of a global water crisis. As per the Canadian Drought Monitor “At the end of January 2024, 70% of the country was classified as Abnormally Dry (D0) or in Moderate to Exceptional Drought (D1 to D4), including 81% of the country’s agricultural landscape”. And Canada’s record-breaking wildfires in 2023 are a fiery wake-up call. The Amazon rainforest, once an important carbon sink,  is now in danger of transitioning into grassland as a result of deforestation for cattle grazing and animal feed. We must accelerate the transition to primarily plant-based diets and change the way we eat and live. Modifying our diet is one of the most impactful – and easiest – changes everyone can make. 

The Canadian University Initiative was founded in the fall of 2020 to inspire and nudge universities towards plant-based dining. University dining and sustainability teams have been presenting at our semestrial steering committee meetings to showcase their advances and strategies to transition to more plant-based dining, with the benefit of lowering food emissions.


PROGRESS TO DATE

  • University of Toronto While plant-based options represented less than half of food services offerings two years ago, they now account for 61%.
  • University of British Columbia  55% of the food in dining halls is plant-forward with a goal to reach 80% by 2025.
  • Western University 43% of dining hall meals offered were plant-based as of September 2023. And some exciting news – the 100% plant-based eatery, Odd Burger,  brainchild of Western graduates and headquartered in London, Ont., opened its first-ever outlet at a post-secondary institution at Western this past January! The UCC Food Hub is Western’s busiest food court, with approximately 8,000 students, faculty, staff and visitors dining there daily during the school year. Odd Burger’s presence at the Food Hub underlines Western’s commitment to supporting sustainable food on campus. In 2021 Odd Burger Corp. became the world’s first publicly traded vegan fast-food chain!
  • Queen’s University 40% of recipes are fully plant-based and 15% are vegetarian at residence dining halls as of December 2023.
  • Concordia University in Montreal plans to reduce its purchase of meat, dairy and eggs by 30% by 2025
  • Other universities who have presented their strategies and successes as part of this initiative include the  University of Victoria, University of Guelph, McMaster University, University of Montréal, and the University of Ottawa.
  • A special thank you to Canada – Forward Food and Greener by Default for having provided the hands on training, strategies and support to go more plant-based.

UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Simon Fraser University If you are in the Burnaby, BC area, on Thursday, Mar 21, 2024 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM PDT SFU will host Beans is How We Fix Our Future, a free half-day roundtable discussion with food service leaders from across B.C. The goal is to network and learn about the many benefits of beans and plant-based foods and inspire more   #beansonthemenu
  • The Canadian University Initiative will be hosting its next steering committee on Wednesday May 15th 4:00pm ET / 1:00pm PT when we will host a one hour panel event headed by Sid Mehta, Senior Director, Ancillary Services Simon Fraser University. The panel will feature participants from other public sector institutions, the BC Government, the private sector, and plant based companies that support SFU.  Last November, Sid worked with Forward Food – Canada and Simon Fraser University to host the very successful SFU and Forward Food Summit: Deepening Local Roots in Food Service in Burnaby, BC.  

For more information, please contact eleanor@plantbasedcities.org

For students who want to make impactful change at their university, please contact our student lead at plantbasedu.canada@gmail.com

Call to Action for Sustainability Leaders

We continue to urge our Sustainability leaders to increase education and awareness throughout their universities on the negative impacts of animal agriculture on our environment, biodiversity, water resources, and pollution. And to factor the reduction of food emissions as part of the university’s climate action plans. 

We also encourage our sustainability departments and student organizations to lead rewilding projects across their campuses. Lawns are huge consumers of water and a desert for beneficial insects. Growing native plants is a crucial step in turning barren lawns into living ecosystems that provide food and habitats for beneficial insects especially pollinators. This commitment to sustainability and ecological restoration is essential for the survival of our planet and its inhabitants. Rewild your Campus. UNEP: Nature Action.

Many thanks and appreciation to our universities for showing leadership and commitment to accelerate the transition to more plant-based meals in Canada.

Related articles/ media
Canadian universities aim to boost plant-based options on menus in 2024 to meet student demand | CBC News.
A plant-based menu is the No. 1 priority for university food services in Canada: chef | CBC.ca
UBCO students gobble up Smart Meals

About Eleanor Carrara

 

 

 

Eleanor is a retired Vice President of Business Operations at Tata Communications, and is now fully dedicated to educating and working with governments and institutions to transition to a primarily plant-based food system. Eleanor founded the Canadian University Initiative in 2020 and co-founded the Plant-Based Cities Movement in 2021 to address the environmental degradation caused by current diets.