News report

Avoid, Reduce, Substitute – Climate Action in the School Canteen

How much do school canteens influence our climate? The project CLIKIS (‘Climate-friendly Kitchen in Schools’) tackled this question – and the project results were presented at the CLIKIS final conference on June 13, 2019 in Krakow, Poland. CLIKIS cooperated with five Polish schools to introduce measures for more climate-friendly meals in their canteen kitchens. The project was based on the KEEKS project (Climate and Energy-Efficient Kitchens in Schools) that was carried out earlier in Germany.

At the conference, Katrin Bienge from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy pointed out that animal products for human nutrition cause almost 80% of greenhouse gases. She illustrated this with a list of the ten most popular dishes in Polish school canteens and how much CO2 they produce per serving. The worst result by far? Pork steaks! They produce a CO2 footprint more than twelve times higher than that of a plate of vegetable soup. Joanna Wis-Bielewicz of the Polish organisation Stowarzyszenie Gmin Polska Sieć PNEC (The Association of Municipalities Polish Network (‘Energie Cités’) also spoke in favour of a climate-friendly diet with more plant-based meals. She reported on the tangible consequences of climate change. These are already being felt in Poland today, especially as a result of increased desertification and the heightened risk of forest fires.

A woman presents a Power Point on climate-friendly nutrition.

Katrin Bienge explains how we can eat in a more climate-friendly manner. Photo: GIZ/EUKI

The CLIKIS project targets the reduction of CO2 emissions in Polish school kitchens, mainly through train-the-trainers seminars. Kitchen managers also receive further training in workshops, where they learn more about the connection between climate change & nutrition and receive practical tips for energy-saving school kitchen operations. The ecological footprints of 24 German school canteens had already been analysed in the earlier CLIKIS project, so the valuable experience gained in Germany was simply transferred to the Polish school canteens.

Aubergines, tomatoes, paprica and other vegetables

A bird’s eye view of different types of vegetables. Photo: pixabay.com

‘Avoid, reduce, substitute’ – Katrin Bienge referred to these three key terms for climate-friendly school kitchens at the Krakow conference. She also suggested several concrete measures, such as consuming less meat, replacing butter more often with vegetable oils and substituting dairy products with herbal alternatives. Malte Schmidthals of the Institute for Future Studies and Technology Assessment (IZT) also mentioned the use of more efficient kitchen appliances and improved planning, because well-conceived menus would result in much less food ending up in the bin. Tomasz Pawelec of PNEC informed the conference participants that CLIKIS had analysed the menus at five Polish schools, hosted workshops for cooks and made recommendations for savings measures.

A man presents at the CLIKIS conference in Kraków

Tomasz Pawelec presents the results of the CLIKIS project. Photo: GIZ/EUKI

CLIKIS is one of several projects of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) to raise awareness in schools. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) is thus promoting the early awareness of climate change and climate action in children. The CLIKIS project is just one example of how simple measures can save a great deal of CO2 and improve the quality of performance at the same time.