Got beef? Adams wants to squash it with latest green initiative


Jack Gavigan

Jack Gavigan | Greenspark

New York City Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a new goal to cut a third of food-procurement carbon emissions by 2030, an increase from the previous 25% goal set by former Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

But Adams must step up his efforts from the previous administration so that New York City delivers on its promise to reduce one of its major carbon footprint culprits. 

The announcement rolled out alongside new data which shows that New York City dishes out almost $300 million to purchase food annually and that its food consumption emits almost as much carbon as its transportation. 

So far, Adams’s subtraction of beef from menus at public institutions like hospitals and schools is an encouraging admission that the protein’s production and consumption is exceptionally harmful to the environment.

Richard Larrick, a professor of management at Duke University, told The New York Times that reducing beef and food waste is critical to minimizing food’s carbon footprint.

Currently, most food scraps rot in the city’s landfills, contributing to a large share of the city’s methane emissions.

City officials have long tossed around ideas to divert these nutrient-rich food scraps away from landfills and into compost for decades. Adams’s curbside compositing initiative which was launched in March and consists of a pilot program in Queens is the latest attempt by the city to maximize its millions of pounds of food and other organic waste.

The program relies on local infrastructure that will process the compost, but it has yet to be built. Instead, the scraps are currently “digested” to create “biogas” and “nutrient-rich concentrate” later reused in fertilizer or soil replacement, according to The New York Times.

This process has been effective in breaking down food scraps, but about 5% of the food collected is still finding its way into landfills.

“We can do better,” City Council member Shahana Hanif said. Last Spring, Hanif introduced a bill that would make composting mandatory across the five boroughs. The bill was part of a greater “Zero Waste” legislation package sponsored by several council members.

“Right now, far too many working-class Black and brown New Yorkers are excluded from this vital environmental program that is good for our City and our planet,” Hanif said in a press release for the bill. 

Adams has made big, inspiring promises in the city’s effort to reduce food-related carbon emissions in the past. But to deliver, Adams must prioritize the fight against food waste and accelerate the compost program to ensure that it’s accessible to all New Yorkers.