AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Office of Sustainability and local nonprofit Planted Society partnered to recruit 28 restaurants to participate in an initiative that seeks to get people thinking about the link between their food and climate change to compel them to start choosing on occasion more “climate-smart” meals. 

Participating restaurants are offering specials, such as new vegan dishes, discounts on dairy and meat-free substitutions or promoting their existing plant-based options.  

“The reason we want (customers) to choose plant-based menu items is really because it already aligns with their values. Most people care about animals. Most people care about the planet. And not a lot of people are able to figure out how to do that without changing their life tremendously,” said Britty Mann, Executive Director of Planted Society.

Mann explained that she feels veganism’s reputation can be offputting to some. With her organization, she attempts to show people that they can eat something delicious while also choosing something that is better for the environment, healthier and involves no animal casualties. 

“What we like to do is bring people to the table,” Mann continued. 

Much research backs Mann’s message. One study by Oxford University researchers found that depending on where you live, switching to a plant-based diet could reduce a person’s carbon emissions by 73 percent.

These statistics are the reason why the Office of Sustainability decided to partner with the Planted Society to help raise awareness. 

Last September, the Austin City Council adopted the Austin Climate Equity Plan, which has an ambitious goal of equitably reaching net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. 

“We’ve now got some important data that shows that the food system in Austin represents about 21 percent of our total greenhouse gas emissions for our community. So as we embark on this effort to be a net zero city, we now know that the food system plays a really substantial role in that effort,” said the Food Policy Representative for the Office of Sustainability, Edwin Marty. 

To start reducing the emissions that come from the food system, the Office of Sustainability wants people to start choosing more “climate-smart diets.” 

A person who chooses this diet would eat lots of fruits and vegetables and avoid red meat as much as possible. 

The massive elephant in the room, or cow, in this case, is the fact that Austin is world-renowned for its barbecue. 

“It’s a part of the fabric of our community,” Marty said. “It’s about creating more options is really what we’re trying to focus on.”

“All we’re trying to do is say, wouldn’t it be great if you went to Franklin’s barbecue, and say, your partner, or your kids or your grandparents or your parents wanted to have a plant-based option? Wouldn’t it be good for you to be able to have additional options on your menu so that you could accommodate more people’s dietary preferences,” he continued.