Feature Report / July 2019
Ministry of Health promotes plant-based diets in new report on heath sector sustainability

The Ministry of Health has released a new report entitled Sustainability and the Health Sector: A guide to getting started, which aims to provide a roadmap for hospitals and district health boards to implement sustainability measures. The report outlines six broad actions areas, including transport, procurement, waste, energy, building design, and food, explaining how greenhouse gas mitigation efforts within each action area can lead to important health and equity co-benefits are achievable.

With respect to food, the Ministry draws attention to the fact that nearly half of New Zealand's emissions are attributable to the agricultural sector, and that this is greatly influenced by our food choices. While pointing out that the health sector already has a commitment to making healthy food available to hospital patients, staff, and visitors, the Ministry urges that greater accountability is required with respect to providing sustainable and climate-friendly food options.

Reducing meat and dairy consumption within the health sector in order to promote both planetary and population health is seen as key priority. The Ministry suggests that hospitals should work with staff dietitians to revise patient menu options to be more plant-focussed.

Other specific food-related actions that are discussed within the report include: procuring local and sustainable foods; growing fruits and vegetables on site; minimising food waste; and reducing packaging.


Producing meat (particularly red meat) is resource intensive and has a larger carbon footprint than producing plant-based protein alternatives.

The health sector can work with staff dietitians to develop alternative patient menus and encourage plant-based diets.

-New Zealand Ministry of Health, 2019

Anna de Mello & Jono Drew

Founders, Plant-Based Living Initiative

July 31, 2019

Topic / Healthcare

Introduction /
The triple benefit of plant-based eating: health, cost, environment

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Eating in the Anthropocence

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Open Access /
Sustainability and the health sector
Ministry of Health, 2019