If you should find yourself invited to an engagement organised by the city of Helsinki next year, you can gratefully accept, safe in the knowledge that any grub on offer will be meat free and planet-friendly. The Finnish capital has pledged to serve only vegetarian food and non-dairy milk in a bid to improve its green credentials.
From 2022, catered events organised by the city – including public and invitation-only events, meetings, seminars and workshops – will feature local, seasonal veggie food, while coffee and tea will be offered with oat milk. Disposable plates, cutlery and containers will be dropped in favour of reusable, and plastic water bottles will be banned in favour of jugs.
Guests will also be encouraged to do their bit by making a binding commitment to attend the events and not cancelling at the last minute, thereby saving food waste. “This is one way among many to reduce the climate impact of food and reduce the amount of natural resources used by the city,” said Johanna af Hällström, who leads Helsinki’s climate team.
Meat free eating is on the rise in Finland, which coincidentally was also the first country in the world to sample the first McDonald’s vegan burger, and the capital is leading by example in the dietary battle against climate change. It has already committed to halving its meat and dairy use by 2025, as well as test-driving “Climate Choice” menus that highlight information about the carbon cost of food.
While Finnish soldiers already enjoy meat free meals, the commitment by Helsinki has been criticised for not applying to food served in school or care homes. Others have noted that meat can still be served when the mayor, Juhana Vartiainen, or the city’s top management team are entertaining high-ranking guests. Vartiainen, who has been in post since August, said it was important that “discretion and common sense” be used when deciding when to use meat – “for example, should the king of Sweden arrive for a visit, then domestic game can be offered”.
Helsinki’s deputy mayor, Nasima Razmyar, tweeted that while “Helsinki’s decision to refrain from meat at city events is responsible … the exception for ‘high-level’ events is unjustified. The same rules should apply across the board.”