A new report by the Ministry of Health encourages New Zealand residents to eat more vegan and vegetarian food in a bid to reduce the health sector’s carbon footprint.
The report uncovered various avenues that can be taken to improve the environmental impact of the health sector, including using less electricity.
Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Ministry for the Environment, it accounts for 49 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The report recommended the reduced consumption of meat and dairy to improve food sustainability.
The production of red meat, in particular, is highly detrimental to the planet. Besides being resource-intensive to make — it requires huge amounts of land and water — red meat is taxing on the body. The World Health Organization named red meat a Group 2 carcinogen, meaning it probably causes cancer in humans. Other research found that eating red meat could increase the risk of heart disease 1,000 percent more than a plant-based diet.
The Ministry of Health report called for sustainability-minded changes in hospitals that would make plant-based food more available to patients, visitors, and staff in canteens and cafes.
Staff should work to “develop alternative menus” and “encourage plant-based diets,” the report said.
It also suggested that health care organizations grow fresh produce onsite.
Government to ‘Combat Climate Change’
The Vegan Society Aotearoa, a charity that provides support for vegans in New Zealand and works to raise awareness about plant-based, cruelty-free lifestyles, applauded the Ministry of Health for its report. “We are delighted that this government agency is committed to addressing the issue of climate change and the population’s health by asking patients, staff, and the public to reduce their meat and dairy intake,” Claire Insley, media spokesperson for the Society, said in a statement.
“If hospitals can start growing their own fruits and vegetables within their grounds or on the roof of buildings, this would help immensely to curb resource wastage and combat climate change by providing more green spaces, especially within our cities,” Insley said, adding that the Society hopes other public sectors follow suit.