The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge is a voluntary leadership initiative for NYC’s private sector to draw down food-related carbon emissions and build a more sustainable food system in New York City. Challenge signatories pledge to make a 25% reduction in their food-related carbon footprint by 2030 through delicious, plant-powered food.

Stand with the Mayor as a leader in the City's ambitious efforts to combat climate change. Contact nycfood@cityhall.nyc.gov to join the Challenge. 

About

Click on each icon to find detailed information and a sample letter of commitment for the Challenge. 

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Program Flyer
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Program Overview
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Sample Commitment Letter

Resources

The Mayor’s Office of Food Policy provides Challenge signatories with support and resources for measuring their food-related carbon emissions and implementing high-impact plant-forward strategies in their food operations. Please click on a guide below to find example toolkits for plant-powered climate action.

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Playbook for Guiding Diners Toward Plant-Rich Dishes in Food Service
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Protein Flip: A Delicious Strategy for Change
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Greener by Default Resource Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to join the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge?

    Any organizations that serve food are eligible: from food distributors and service providers to corporate offices, catering and hospitality groups, sports venues, and more. Contact nycfood@cityhall.nyc.gov for any questions about your organization’s eligibility and participation in the Challenge.

My organization has already made commitments and progress towards another sustainability goal, such as the Coolfood Pledge, SBTi’s Corporate Net-Zero Standard, or the Food Waste Action Plan. Is my organization still eligible to participate in the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge?

    Absolutely. The Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge is a great supplement to your existing sustainability commitments, and in many instances, exactly in line with your current emissions targets. For example, organizations who have committed a net-zero emissions target often find that Scope 3 emissions make up the greatest share of their carbon footprint, and the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge offers a proven, high-impact methodology for Scope 3 emissions reduction (plant-forward procurement) to meet this goal.

What data do I need to measure and track my food-based carbon emissions?

    Beginning with the year that you will set as your baseline, you will need data on your organization’s annual food purchases by weight—for example, the amount of kg cheese purchased in 2021, 2022, and 2023. The more comprehensive your data is, the more accurate your calculations will be, but the most important category of food to track is animal proteins (such as ruminant meats, pork, dairy, eggs, poultry, and seafood). These tend to account for the greatest share of carbon costs, so low-carbon, plant-based alternatives for these foods will yield the greatest emissions reductions.

Are there any costs associated with participating in the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge?

There are no fees or costs of any kind required to participate in the Challenge. Access to support from the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy and use of the Plant-Powered Carbon Challenge logo is free for all participants. Many emissions calculators, including the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Calculator, are free to download and use. Furthermore, there are a number of resources—toolkits and guides, webinars, product databases, substitution charts, and sample menus—available free of charge through organizations like Forward Food.

Some organizations may choose to purchase consulting services for measuring and tracking comprehensive Scope 1-3 GHG emissions, recipe development and culinary training, or marketing and climate labeling—but these are not required for the Challenge.


What kinds of steps can my organization take towards plant-forward procurement?

Depending on your food environment, even minor changes can make significant cuts to your food-based emissions. For organizations that offer multiple meal options for diners to choose from, consider increasing the ratio of plant-based dishes on your menu (ideally, offer a minimum of two plant-based items for each animal-based one). When plant-based options abound, studies suggest, even diners who don’t follow strictly plant-based diets (such as vegetarians and vegans) are likely to choose a plant-based meal.

Otherwise, substitute ingredients with their plant-based alternatives: for example, oat milk instead of cow’s milk as the default dairy ingredient. These minor substitutions are likely to go unnoticed, and can sometimes better accommodate dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance.

Finally, you can implement gentle behavioral nudges that allow people to make voluntary, climate-friendly decisions. Rather than opting into the plant-based meal, have diners opt out, or develop menus that are centered around plant-based foods with animal products available as an add-on. And consider reworking your menu so that plant-based dishes are incorporated throughout, and have descriptors focused on delicious ingredients and global flavors (instead of vegan/vegetarian labels). For many more plant-forward strategies, check out Greener by Default’s Implementation Guides and Coolfood’s Playbook for Guiding Diners toward Plant-Rich Dishes.

Why does this carbon challenge emphasize plant-based procurement?

In short, different foods have different carbon impacts. Animal-based products—in particular, meat from ruminants (such as beef, sheep, and goats) and dairy products—are the most resource-intensive agricultural products in our food system, and account for the greatest share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and hectares of land use by far. Thus, modifying our consumption habits and dietary patterns to prioritize plant-based products is one of the most impactful ways to reduce our carbon footprint. Plant-based diets are a leading strategy in addressing climate change---and they also save money, fight chronic disease, and help us build a more sustainable global food system.