Collaborative effort to curb Leeds’ food emissions: Cucumbers and peaches

A new collaboration which aims to reduce the city’s carbon footprint through food has been announced by Leeds City Council, the University of Leeds and FoodWise Leeds.

Around 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions can be linked to the food we eat or waste, with every part of the journey from farm to fork contributing to its overall environmental impact.

The partnership of organisations is working collaboratively on a number of new projects designed to tackle climate change by making it easier for residents and organisations to make informed food choices, support more sustainable food production, and reduce food waste.

Studies show that our collective health and the health of the planet would improve if we ate a balanced diet consistent with the NHS-recommended Eatwell guidelines. For some people, this may mean eating more fruit and vegetables and less meat.

Researchers at the Consumer Data Research Centre (CRDC) based at the University of Leeds have recently developed a new calculator to make it easier for food venues and caterers to estimate the carbon footprint, land use, and water use of meals based on their ingredients.

The council’s school meals provider, Catering Leeds, is already trialling the new tool to review its menus and suppliers to explore how to become more sustainable and support the local authority’s climate targets. Last year, Leeds City Council set out its ambition to halve the carbon footprint of the average meal it serves by 2030.

Meanwhile, FoodWise Leeds—a citywide partnership with representatives from third sector, academia, businesses and the council—has used the calculator’s findings to show the impact of simple, nutritious, and affordable recipes published on its new online Recipe Hub. It is believed to be the first recipe hub to include carbon calculation and supports the Partnership’s ambition to encourage greater sharing of cooking skills and knowledge.

As well as developing the carbon calculator, the University of Leeds researchers have also used their research to engage young people in local primary schools through special food data science lessons, workshops, and even creating an interactive and educational ‘Planet Plates’ game.

Each of the organisations in the new partnership, plus many others, have also contributed to the creation of the first city-wide food strategy currently in development. The new Leeds Food Strategy will be published in draft form and will open to consultation later this month.

Councillor Helen Hayden, executive member for infrastructure and climate at Leeds City Council said:

“The food we eat is responsible for a significant proportion of our carbon footprint, so we believe it is important to lead by example to reduce the impact of the food we serve, whilst empowering others to do the same.

“This new collaboration with the University of Leeds and Food Wise is a brilliant example of how working together can help us realise our ambitions for a healthier and greener city.

“Going forward, we’ll continue to educate and equip organisations and residents with the tools and knowledge they need to make informed food choices, to make it easier for the city to come together to help Leeds tackle climate change through food.”

Alexandra Dalton, a former data scientist at Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) and the Consumer Data Research Centre:

“When we buy food, we don’t often think about where it has come from, or the environmental impact of the food supply chain.

“Small changes to our diets, such as eating more fruit, vegetables, and plant-based products make a difference. However, we should also try and consider where certain foods come from, how processed they are, or whether it is in season.

“While working with Leeds primary schools and Leeds City Council, we have created resources that help educate pupils about the impact of their food choices and encourage them to support more sustainable food behaviours.”

Sonja Woodcock, Sustainable Food Places Coordinator at Food Wise Leeds said:

“I’m really excited to be building on our existing partnership with the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council with this new collaboration.

“The Leeds Recipe Hub is an innovative resource that will enable community groups and individuals to search, try, and share nutritious, tasty, and affordable recipes—whilst helping people to better understand the environmental impact of their food choices.

For media enquiries contact:

Frankie Hebbert
Graduate Communications Officer
Leeds City Council