New York City’s hospitals, schools, and businesses are committed to reducing food-based emissions by 33% by 2030

Written by Resilient Cities Network
Monday, 16 October 2023

Food is the third largest source of New York City’s (NYC) overall emissions, behind buildings and transportation, according to the city’s first integrated NYC Greenhouse Gas Inventory. The 2023 study, developed by the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, measures emissions involved in the production of goods and services New Yorkers consume. It is the first time the city has included emissions from household consumption.

In response to the new inventory, the city is promoting food habit changes among city residents, including hospitals and schools, as well as businesses.

Promoting Plant-Based Food

The inventory shows that 20% of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from household food consumption — primarily from meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. This means New Yorkers can significantly reduce the city’s emissions by buying different foods and eating more low-carbon food. New York City’s public hospitals and schools are leading the way by serving plant-based meals as the default option and enhancing patients’ food experience.

In particular, NYC Health + Hospitals is on track to serve 850,000 plant-based meals this year — reducing its food-based carbon emissions by 36% as of February 2023. The city also introduced Plant-Powered Fridays in its NYC public schools last year, emphasizing the central role that healthy, low-carbon options must have on individuals’ plates. By enhancing patient’s food experience and serving plant-based meals as the default option, the city is not only reducing food-based emissions but also reducing diet-related disease and raising awareness about sustainable food systems, thus improving public health and education.

Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge

New York City also launched the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge with leaders in private, institutional, and nonprofit sectors that commit to reducing carbon emissions from food purchases by 25% by 2030. The Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, in partnership with Coolfood and Greener by Default, is providing educational resources to help companies measure and reduce the carbon footprint of their existing procurement practices.

These initiatives will help New York City to meet its goal of reducing the carbon emissions from food purchases across its city agencies by 33% by 2030, as well as inspire a more just and sustainable food system.


Amid rising food demand and prices, cities must take urgent action to reduce and repurpose food waste to provide food security for their residents while simultaneously achieving economic opportunities and emission reduction. The Urban Eats campaign is mobilizing cities towards a more circular and resilient food system by: 1) creating value out of food waste, 2) redistributing excess food, 3) producing more locally, 4) promoting food habit change among city residents and businesses, and 5) strengthening collaboration across the whole food value chain. Through the sharing of city stories such as New York City’s initiative to create value out of food waste, we hope to help you consider simple yet diverse ways to manage food waste in your city. Want to inspire other cities with your story? Get in touch with llim@r-cities.org.

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