Introduction to
Plant-Based Cities Movement

Taking Climate Action to the Municipal Level

The Plant-Based Cities Movement(PBCM) was launched in the fall of 2021 in response to the United Nations’ declaration of a  Code Red for Humanity 1, and the February 2022 release of the most damning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.  The objective of the PBCM is to ask and support cities across Canada to move toward plant-based foods at their city halls, facilities, and events in order to help address the climate crisis.

We started with a small group of people that felt the urgency of our climate situation required the involvement of our cities. Over the last year and half we have grown.   We have teams active in more than a dozen cities across Canada and we are growing.  Everyone has heard the saying Think Global, Act Local, and this is exactly what we are about.

Why Cities

Cities make decisions and  spend money on food whether they are catering a workshop or council meeting, or funding food to be served at a community event.  At the same time many cities have already put together a climate action plan.  Those plans focus largely on transportation, fossil fuel and infrastructure changes.   All these plans take time and money to implement.  Changing food choices in one area that has a big impact, can be actioned quickly, but is often missed. 

PBCM exists to help local groups and municipal residents approach their city councillors and ask for change in food purchasing strategies.  We provide mentorship, sample letters to council, sample presentations etc.  We also provide information for councillors on the benefits of moving away from animal-based foods as well as help, direction and support on how to do so.

It all starts with an idea, an ask.  The process and approach may be different from one municipality to another.  For example, an ask can be that a city shifts 50% or more of its animal-based food purchases to plant-based food purchases by the end of a year.  Another example, an ask can be that a city defaults to plant-based foods but has animal products as an add-on if requested.

We believe that we need leadership at the municipal level to address the climate crisis.  Any municipally sponsored event that choses vendors can put plant-based vendors as a priority.  Any catered event can choose more plant-based options and feature those choices prominently.  

There are cities across the world already taking action:

  • Sixteen C40 cities have committed to “supporting an overall increase of healthy plant-based food consumption in our cities by shifting away from unsustainable, unhealthy diets” as part of the C40 Cities Good Food Declaration.2, 3 The cities signing the declaration are Barcelona, Copenhagen, Guadalajara, Lima, London England, Los Angeles, Milan, Oslo, Paris, Quezon City, Seoul, Stockholm, Tokyo, Toronto and Montreal. The pledge was made at the C40 World Mayors’ Summit in Copenhagen.   
  • Cities such as Montreal, Berkeley, Amsterdam, and Helsinki, and the County of San Diego are currently implementing plant-based strategies.

The benefits are many:

  • Environmentally friendly. Reducing animal products reduces greenhouse gas emissions, food waste, pollution, food insecurity, deforestation, biodiversity loss, ocean dead zones, land used for agriculture, and freshwater consumption. Scientists state that all forms of animal agriculture 4 are less sustainable than plant-based agriculture.
  • Good for business. The growth of plant-based businesses and plant-based food has accelerated. Recent data from Nielsen has shown exponential growth in the sales of plant-based foods in Canada. At the end of 2020, plant-based sales were up by 25 percent 5 making the industry worth more than $600 million. 
  • Healthy. The 2019 revised Canada Food Guide 6 recommends eating more plant-based food for our health and for the planet. It has removed meat and dairy as separate sections of the guide.  Eating more plant-based food is associated with improvements in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory issues, weight problems, some types of cancer, and could prevent future pandemics, according to researchers. 

Human populations increasingly share a global commons of disease risk, among themselves and with domestic and wild animal species. The occurrence of cross-species viral epidemics
can be substantially reduced by shifting to a more vegetarian diet and enforcing stricter laws that ban the slaughter and trade of wild and endangered species. 

  • Inclusive. Plant-based foods can be nutritious; can satisfy dietary requirements for different religious and cultural groups; are suitable for vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diets; and eliminate common allergens such as dairy and eggs. 

It is
within our power to make change in our communities by accelerating the transition to a plant-based food system. Our mayors and council, as community leaders, can play a significant part in this change.  They may just need a nudge from some municipal residents and the PBCM is here to help with that.