Sustainable UCL


Powered by Plants

'Powered by Plants' is a UCL-wide campaign to reduce the carbon footprint associated with UCL's catering.

Powered By Plants

19 November 2019

The campaign began when Green Champions within the Psychology and Language Sciences Division (PALS) raised the question of whether the department could provide 100% vegetarian catering across events and meetings. They felt this would enhance the health and wellbeing of staff and students and would be a positive action in the face of the Climate Emergency.

Why go vegetarian? 

  • If all departments switched to 100% vegetarian catering, UCL’s food emissions would be reduced by 40%, saving ~5,000 tonnes COper annum, equivalent to taking 1,000 cars off the road (4).
  • The meat and dairy industry produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions (2) and it is considered to be the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction and land desertification (3). 
  • There is now compelling scientific evidence that reducing meat consumption improves health (5) and reduces the risk of some of the leading causes of death today including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer (6).
  • 12 UCL departments contributed to the Lancet Countdown which concluded that "tackling climate change could be the greatest opportunity for global health in the 21st century" (7).

Join Powered by Plants 

Powered by Plants Pledge form ​ →

For further tips on running a sustainable event at UCL, see 'Make your event sustainable'


  • Actively reduce meat content in our meals to support sustainable food consumption. UCL's catering provider now provides a much larger range of delicious vegetarian and vegan hospitality choices: at least half of the food on campus is vegetarian or vegan, and it will often exceed that.
  • Vegetarian options are advertised before the meat options on campus and are priced at a lower price.
  • Vegetarian is offered as standard for event catering (meat dishes are still available on request)!
  • Climate labelling is used to display the climate impact of many dishes, making it easier for you to understand how your diet contributes to your individual footprint.
  • UCL hosted the launch of WWF Future 50 with caterers at the time, Sodexo. 
  • UCL is a top 20 vegan university by PETA
  • UCL don't serve any products on the red list of the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Fish Guide ‘fish to avoid’.
  • UCL only buy free-range eggs, all menus utilise seasonal ingredients. 

> learn more about sustainable food at UCL

Powered by plant-pledged departments 

  • UCL Finance;
  • Institute of Neurology;
  • Bartlett School of Environment Energy and Resources (BSEER);
  • Bartlett Development Planning Unit;
  • VP International;
  • UCL Urban Laboratory;
  • School of Management;
  • UCL Health of the Public;
  • UCL Library Services;
  • Planning Division.

It has additionally spread to other Psychology departments, including at the University of Auckland, Bath and Royal Holloway.


  1. IPCC. Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments [Internet]. 8 October 2018. [Accessed 28 April 2019]; Available from: https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/
  2. Watts N, Adger N, Ayeb-Karlsson S, Bai Y and Byass P.  The Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change 2017; 329(10074); 1151-1164.
  3. Machovina Brian, Feeley K and Ripple W. Biodiversity conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption. 2015; 536(2015);419-431
  4. Based on data on current UCL hospitatlity provision and carbon factors from Espinoza-Orias N, et al. 2018, Understanding the impact on climate change of convenience food: Carbon footprint of sandwiches, Sustainable Production and Consumption
  5. Craig, W. Health effects of vegan diets. 2009;89(5): 1627S – 1633S
  6. NHS. Red meat and the risk of bowel cancer [Internet]. No date. [Accessed 28 April 2019]; Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/red-meat-and-the-risk-of-bowel-cancer/
  7. Watts N, Adger N, Ayeb-Karlsson S, Bai Y and Byass P.  The Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change 2017; 329(10074); 1151-1164.