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New on the menu – plant-based foods

By Matthew Yamatin, ISB Sustainability Manager

The International School of Beijing (ISB) has been celebrating Earth Week since Monday. In line with ISB’s pioneering commitment to sustainability, students across the school have been empowered to take small actions that collectively can make a large impact.

Earth Week is an expansion of Earth Day, which commemorates on April 22 the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people in recent years as a day of action to change human behavior. For Earth Day 2020, ISB announced that it had hit its target of becoming powered by 100 percent renewable electricity from a local wind farm.

This time around, we have a reusable water bottle competition in Middle School. High School students are orchestrating a school-wide campaign for people to cycle to campus, and they are encouraging staff and students alike to pledge to make one change for the week such as eating less meat.


One of the more significant developments among ISB’s sustainability initiatives is our food service provider, Sodexo, supporting Earth Week by introducing plant-based meats to the menu. Plant-based meats are growing in popularity as a healthier and more sustainable alternative to conventional meat. KFC, Dicos, Starbucks, Taco Bell, and schools across China have started to include plant-based meat options.

What are plant-based meats?

Simply, they are ‘meats’ made from plants crafted to look like, taste like, and cook like conventional meat. Plant-based meats use one or more alternative protein ingredients and can come in the form of burgers, sausages, ground meat, crumbles, or nuggets.

Why are people choosing plant-based meats?

  • A growing body of research has linked the consumption of red meat to health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
  • Conventional meat can generate up to 17 times more climate change-causing emissions, requires 80 percent of the world’s agricultural space, and also leads to deforestation, land degradation, and water contamination. 

While Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are top names in the industry, China is regarded as a leader in the transition to plant-based meat with some of the most advanced companies in the world. Sodexo and ISB are partnering with Z-Rou to introduce plant-based meats into our menu. (We’re in good company as Microsoft, HSBC, and Nike have also recently started serving foods with Z-Rou.)

The introduction to plant-based meat has been a project long in the works here at ISB. It all started a few years back when Siri C and Raima P, a pair of passionate students in a Grade 10 science class, built a climate change project centered on plant-based diets. These students were ahead of their time as plant-rich diets are now regarded as one of the most impactful solutions to prevent climate change.

Siri and Raima, who are about to graduate from ISB, said, “It’s amazing to see that we, as students, were able to make a difference in our school with our sophomore science project; we saw the need for change and ISB listened. The integration of more vegetarian and vegan options into the ISB cafeteria is not just a win for people with plant-based diets, but offers the opportunity for more students to be involved in creating a more sustainable future through their meal choice.”

This addition of plant-based food demonstrates ISB’s commitment to healthy and sustainable foods as outlined in our Sustainability Roadmap 2025 and also aligns ISB with China’s national plan of reducing meat consumption by 50 percent by 2030 to reduce carbon emissions and prevent obesity.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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