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San Diego Aims to Reduce Meat and Dairy Consumption with New Climate Action Plan

Meatless menus are helping reduce San Diego’s carbon footprint.

San Diego

Meatless menus are helping reduce San Diego’s carbon footprint.

You can’t have a conversation about climate change or sustainability without mentioning animal agriculture and meat-centric diets. This realization has echoed through the halls of San Diego’s City Council, which detailed a plan to push the region in a more carbon-neutral direction. Plant-based defaults are already in place in Denver and at Harvard University. These may serve as paradigms for similar models in Southern California.

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan

San Diego is closing out the summer and the end of August with an update to the city’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan. This decision came after two years of campaigning by a coalition of 20 local organizers. Their routine meetings and published op-ed encouraged the city to move to a plant-based default. Once fully enacted, the goal is to reduce San Diego’s meat- and dairy-related emissions and its water footprint by 20 percent. This initiative trails the footsteps of Washington, D.C. The area was the first city in the nation to pass legislation geared at reducing food-related emissions. Berkeley and New York City have announced plans to enact similar initiatives.

Plant-Based Default

What does shifting to a plant-based default mean? And how is it possible? Think about the times, where instead of ordering from a menu, you chose from a pre-selected arrangement. This may have been at a public school lunch. Possibly, it was during a hospital stay or in the break room at your job. A plant-based default means your options would automatically be vegan or vegetarian. You would have the choice to add animal proteins. But unless specified, you would receive a veggie-packed meal. If employed, this strategy would increase the percentage of people eating plant-based food by 60 percent. It would also reduce the food’s carbon footprint by up to 40 percent. Additionally, this plan would cut food costs while diversifying dining options available to those with religious or dietary restrictions.

For more information on San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, visit SanDiego.gov.

Jared Cross

Jared Cross


Jared’s passion for travel and culture are fueled by his upbringing near the Mexican-American border in San Diego. He is in constant pursuit of ways to reduce his carbon footprint and dreams of someday owning a cocktail bar. Take a look in his fridge and pantry, and you’ll find an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables grown by the region’s farming and co-op communities.

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