UWE students enjoy a Meat Free Monday

Students tuck into climate-friendly food as part of university’s #PlantBasedPlanet campaign

UWE students from the 'Green Team' running an outdoor #PlantBasedPlanet stand, selection of veggie dishes and #PlantBasedPlanet flyer

The popularity of meat dishes is going south in the west of England, with students at a Bristol university tucking into an array of delicious plant-based dishes as part of a new drive towards greener eating.

The University of the West of England’s #PlantBasedPlanet campaign encouraged the institution’s 30,000 students to eat less meat, using a variety of initiatives including Meat Free Monday. UWE’s Students’ Union sustainability committee spent the first quarter of the year researching the issues around meat free eating – and getting a sense of how much appetite there was among the student fraternity – before launching the campaign.

A survey gave a sense of the enthusiasm across the university’s five campuses about adopting a greener, more nutritious diet. Of those asked, 90 per cent responded positively to the idea of adopting a Meat Free Monday, and it’s no surprise that 71 per cent of those cash-strapped students said price was a factor in deciding what they ate.

The sustainability committee decided as a result that the best thing to do was team up with the Students’ Union Bar to offer MFM meals at half price. Meat free options already account for 60 per cent of meals on UWE’s primary campus, Frenchay, so a discount was offered on the students’ favourite food – resulting in an average saving of £2.20 per meal.

As the UWE website explains: “MFM is a great way to highlight the innumerable benefits that come from a plant-based diet. We have the power to minimise our impacts on the environment – small actions have the potential to evolve into large movements.”

And the #PlantBasedPlanet campaign is only the start, it adds: “The overwhelming enthusiasm for vegan and vegetarian foods on campus have us thinking twice about what we are offering, for how much, and how often.”

Other events arranged as part of the #PlantBasedPlanet campaign included a “Pub Quiz for the Planet”, a debate pitting a plant-based diet against a meat-based one, a sandwich giveaway at the “VegWay” sandwich station, and a “lock-in” featuring local ethical rappers.

“The world is becoming increasingly of the ongoing climate crisis,” said Ciaran Gutteridge, UWE’s Students’ Union sustainability officer. “Changing to a plant-based diet is the single biggest consumer action you can make to reduce your cabron footprint. Aside from this fact, it has been proved that those who follow a plant-based diet live healthier, richer lives – while reducing the suffering of animals. Given these facts, Meat Free Monday is a no-brainer.”

The UWE’s #PlantBasedPlanet campaign ran for two weeks during the end of March but the Student Sustainability Committee at The Students’ Union expects 70% of all catering options on campus to be plant based by 2030. Negotiations are also being held with The Students’ Union bar to incorporate Meat Free Monday on a regular basis for the 2019/2020 academic year and beyond.

Universities across the UK are turning into seats of greener eating, as well as seats of learning. Institutions already taking part in MFM include UlsterUCLU and Wadham College, Oxford.