Everything we do, eat or buy has a carbon footprint and an impact on the environment. Our Bupa Global team in Copenhagen wanted to take personal action to improve the health of the environment and personal wellbeing by consuming less meat – leading to the set up of a Meat Free Day.
Animal products require much more energy, land and water to produce, and have a larger CO2 footprint, than plant-based products – even when comparing like-for-like protein per gram. Studies also suggest that reduced meat consumption can help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. So changing our eating habits and reducing our meat intake can help both the planet and bring health benefits.
Bupa Global teams expressed an interest in being more informed in improving their personal health and wellbeing. With this in mind, the Meat Free Day was set up by Viviana Holm, Network Co-ordinator for the Bupa Global Health and Benefits team in Copenhagen, where once a week the office canteen serves a menu free of meat. Viviana is passionate about creating sustainable environments and healthy workplaces, so spurred others to join her cause too. As Denmark is one of the tenth highest ranked countries in the world for meat consumption, embracing a change in culture in the workplace was a big task.
Working with Bupa’s suppliers and supported by a not-for-profit campaign, Meat Free Monday Denmark, which aims to raise awareness of the impact eating meat has on the environment, the employee-led initiative has become a permanent fixture for the workplace. Once a week, alternative meals such as chilli con carne, vegan hot dogs, and onion bhajis are served up.
Results from the programme have seen a personal carbon reduction by the team; a saving of 136,000 km of travel made from transporting food. This is equivalent to driving a bus three to four times around the world. The team also worked out that by making a small change they have helped make savings of over eight million litres of water which would have otherwise been used in meat; enough to fill three and a half Olympic swimming pools.1
Viviana said: “At first it was difficult for people to get into a new routine but Bupa was able to support us to take an idea from grassroots level to something which everyone at the office can enjoy. This all makes a positive difference to the environment and I hope it encourages more of us to eat healthier. This relatively minor change of habit has a huge impact both on our own health and that of the planet. Bupa's goal of being a healthcare partner for our customers sets an example with our own people.
Dr Søren Carstens, Bupa Global’s Head of Clinical Operations, and local sponsor of the Meat Free Day added: “Bupa´s purpose is to help our customers live longer, healthier and happier lives, and this initiative demonstrates how we can help our own people to live our purpose too.
“For me, the Meat Free Day at Bupa is a gift – I just come into work and eat well, and quite simply, I am taking care of the planet, my fellow people, and my health all at the same time.”
1 The following meat free calculator estimates the carbon equivalent of having meat free meals. Water savings equivalent to 8,671, 005 litres of water is based on 57,806.7 days of personal use. The average personal water use given by the European Agency is 150 litres.