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Environment and Energy

Researchers and staff at the University of Cambridge, have been selected as top 10 finalists in a global contest designed to identify, reward, and spotlight innovative solutions for addressing climate change. This project was selected from a pool of nearly 200 entries in Solution Search: Climate Change Needs Behavior Change, a competition sponsored by RareConservation InternationalNational GeographicThe Nature ConservancyUNDP, and WWF. The contest is designed to elevate organisations that have developed and implemented approaches to helping consumers adopt climate-friendly behaviours.

As a finalist, the University of Cambridge is eligible for two grand prizes worth $25,000 each. The Solution Search Judges’ Prize is determined by a panel of judges made up of experts from conservation, development, academia, advocacy, government and other professions. The Solution Search People’s Choice Prize is determined by popular vote.

How to vote

During the open voting period from 2 January 2019 through to 30 January 2019 anyone is eligible to vote once per day, by:

What was the solution from the University of Cambridge?

Increasing plant-rich diets is now recognised as a key element to tackling climate change. According to the UN FAO, livestock are responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. University of Cambridge researchers have been working on these issues. By linking those researchers with the University’s own catering operations through a ‘Living Lab’ project, a ground-breaking and successful approach to minimising food-related carbon emissions was developed and tested. Researchers and catering staff worked together to develop a new policy covering all of the University’s catering outlets which set out ambitious targets, including the reduction and removal of ruminant meat (beef and lamb) from meals, and focusing on providing more and tastier plant-based options. To ensure customer satisfaction was not compromised, chefs were provided with vegan cookery training.

"As a busy catering operation serving thousands of staff, students and visitors to the University of Cambridge every year, we were conscious of our impact on the environment. Collaborating with the University’s own researchers has focused our attention on areas which have the biggest impact, and we’re delighted with the results. We are proud of the changes we have made, which we feel could have ground-breaking implications for the wider sector." - Nick White, University of Cambridge Catering Service

Building the solution

Following a trial period, which showed that carbon emissions reduced significantly without impacting the bottom line of catering operations, the University was encouraged to research the issue further. Research is now being carried out on how better to promote plant-based options to customers and create genuine shifts in behaviour. In a series of novel experiments the University has generated evidence of the effectiveness of different ‘choice architecture’ interventions. In trials, vegetarian sales have been increased by simple changes to menus such as doubling the availability of plant-based food. The University has demonstrated that significant greenhouse gas emissions savings can result from these simple changes. The learning from this project could have broader implications for the food service sector.

“Reducing meat consumption and increasing plant-rich diets is vital to combat climate change. The University of Cambridge have been researching and implementing a number of innovative and effective approaches and it’s fantastic to have this hard work recognised.” - Emma Garnett, PhD researcher in Department of Zoology.

About the Solution Search

The panel of Solution Search: Climate Change Needs Behavior Change judges includes leaders from academia, government, NGOs, the arts, and business, as well as the heads of the sponsoring organisations. The panel of judges considered entrants’ proven success in shifting consumers toward behaviors that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The judges also considered the potential for scaling their solutions to achieve positive environmental, social and economic outcomes. This is the fifth Solution Search contest. More information is available at solutionsearch.org.

“In communities around the world, people are coming up with innovative and inspiring ideas to tackle huge environmental challenges like climate change. This Solution Search contest is all about shining a spotlight on promising approaches that hold tremendous potential for helping individuals play a meaningful role in fighting climate change.” - Brett Jenks, CEO of Rare, the organisation that founded Solution Search.

Read more information on what the University of Cambridge is doing on Sustainable Food.