TED’s Inaugural Climate Conference Features a Plant-Based Menu

|Updated Oct 21, 2021
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International media organization TED just hosted its first climate conference last week, complete with fully plant-based meals. The Countdown Summit – TED’s first all in-person climate talks event – provided all guests with a completely vegan menu designed by acclaimed vegan chef Derek Sarno. TED’s flagship event invited climate activists, scientists, and industry leaders to discuss the ongoing and worsening climate crisis, focusing on threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic and animal agriculture.

By including a plant-based menu, TED garnered praise from several animal rights and climate activist organizations. While advocating for climate change and action, the TED conference steered away from contradicting words with actions. The summit hosted a series of speakers that discuss the importance of changing international food systems to adopt more sustainable, environmentally conscious standards.

The organization – which was founded 37 years ago – aims to provide a platform for leaders, activists, and innovators to broadcast their voices. Typically, TED hosts these individuals on online talks filmed in front of a live audience that focus on a singular subject ranging across scientific, social, political, cultural, and academic topics. The summit marks the first time the organization created a collective event to encourage more discussion between speakers and the audience.

On the heels of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26), the Countdown Summit took place in Edinburgh, Scotland from Oct 12 to 15. The event hosted talks and panels from politicians, entrepreneurs, policy, scientists, artists, philanthropists, activists, and more to explore the potential for climate action and to highlight the dangers causing the climate crisis to worsen.

TED will revisit the conference on October 30 by hosting a virtual Youtube event that will showcase the highlights from the summit. Anybody can attend the virtual spotlight on the even. TED also announced that for the remainder of the year, its offshoot organization TEDx will arrange hundred of Countdown events to continue advocating for the advocacy goals deliberated during the conference.

Sarno’s plant-based menu emphasizes the need to include plant-based foods and food production into the conversation. The fully plant-based menu addresses issues around sustainability in the food sector. During the event, Sarno also contributed insights into his motivations for going vegan and what plant-based living means for personal and environmental health.

Several organizations announced their support for the TED Summit, regarding the decision as a necessary step to properly addressing the climate crisis. Meat and dairy products have been propelled into the spotlight concerning the climate crisis, especially after the UN’s IPCC report that situated animal agriculture as a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Animal agriculture’s devastating impact on the environment cannot be overlooked: intensive animal farming is responsible for an estimated 14.5—16.5 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions globally, on par with emissions levels of the entire transport sector,” said Elizabeth Novogratz, Executive Director of Species Unite, an animal rights non-profit. Studies show that reducing meat and dairy production and consumption is one of the most effective actions we can take to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

The climate summit spent days discussing the impact that greenhouse gas emissions and other polluters have on vulnerable communities and ecosystems. Novogratz vocalized the importance of this charged decision, noting that food insecurity and climate change can be directly tied to the world’s dominant food industries and expansive animal agriculture.

“We applaud TED for listening to the science by serving plant-based, climate-friendly food at their climate conference. This sends a clear message to the world that they are serious about tackling animal agriculture’s catastrophic impact on our planet.”

The Countdown Summit took place ahead of the upcoming COP26, which will gather the top government officials from around the world to discuss how to tackle climate change. The Glasgow-based event will take place from October 31 to November 12. Unlike the TED-hosted event, COP26 has yet to promise to feature a fully vegan menu and food spread. Currently, a petition promoted by several activists organizations, Joquin Phoenix, and Billie Eilish is circulating, requesting the COP26 committee to exclude all animal products from the event.

“With animal agriculture being such a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, it is impossible to meet goals set out in the Paris Agreement without making changes to our global food system. Even if all other major sources of emissions were reformed, we will still fall short,” the letter reads. “Addressing these urgent areas in the UNFCCC COP26 meeting would help propel governments around the world to take action and would provide world leaders with another high-impact option to add to their toolbox for tackling climate change.

“We call on the UNFCCC to formally and publicly recognize the role of animal agriculture as one of the largest contributors of climate change and to open greater space for dialogue.”

Sandra Oh and 20 Others It Might Surprise You to Learn Are Plant-Based

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1. Paul McCartney

Sir James Paul McCartney is no stranger to a meat-free life as he's been vegetarian for 45 years. He initially went vegetarian in 1975 with his first wife Linda McCartney and began his advocacy for animal rights.

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2. Sia

If you find yourself constantly singing along to the song The Greatest, then you're already a Sia fan. Sia tweeted that she is "fully vegan now" back in 2014 and stays true to her word

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3. Sandra Oh

Way back at the start of Grey's Anatomy, Sandra Oh took the cast out for a plant-based lunch at Truly Vegan in Hollywood. In her effort to inspire contemporaries to eat vegan, the TV star is known to invite her friends for vegan meals that are delicious. She adopted the vegan lifestyle years ago and continues to quietly live a cruelty-free life.

4. Gisele Bündchen

Giselle revealed that when she was at the peak of her modeling career, her diet consisted of "cigarettes, wine, and mocha Frappuccinos," according to an interview in People Magazine. Now 39 and the mother of two children, Gisele eats a "mostly" plant-based diet to nourish her body and stay fueled.

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5. Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin has made a bigger commitment to plant-based eating since he was first told by doctors that he was pre-diabetic and needed to change his diet. That was decades ago. But, over the last few years, he's been vocal about the benefits not only to his health but also the impact plant-based eating has on the environment.


7. Pamela Anderson

We all remember Pamela Anderson as the curvaceous blonde in the hit series Baywatch as she played Casey Jean in the red one-piece swimsuit that brought her world-class fame. She is a life-long active animal rights advocate and teamed up with PETA to join the Animal Protection Organization.

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8. Kristen Stewart

"We shouldn't eat as much meat guys," Kristen Stewart told GQ in an interview in January. The Twilight star has made a full 180 from vampire to vegan. When she appeared on the game show "Hot Ones" she chose to skip the wings and instead compete by eating increasing spicier sauce on vegan cauliflower wings.


9. Jared Leto

This award-winning actor eats a high-protein diet consisting of only plants. Leto, who has been plant-based for 20 years, says it keeps him "shredded" in an interview. Now, 48, Leto looks half his age.


10. Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith switched up his diet from vegan to vegetarian, meaning that he doesn't eat meat but does eat dairy from time to time. In a recent article by Plant Based News, Smith admits he skipped meals and was not getting the proper nutrition when he was vegan, but this hasn't stopped him from espousing the plant-based life.

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11. Meghan Markle

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has never admitted to being fully vegan, but sources say, she eats a plant-based diet most days during the week. She is teaching Prince Harry vegan cooking and in a Plant-Based News article, Markle explained how she hopes to raise baby Archie on a mostly vegan diet.

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12. Serena Williams

As a professional athlete, fueling the body is a key factor to Willaim's successes. In a Bon Appetite article, she explained that she adopted a plant-based diet back in 2012, she was eating a lot "healthier" for her sister, Venus, who eats a strict vegan diet for health reasons.

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13. John Mackey

The popular grocery store, Whole Foods Market sells vegan products and nonvegan products which arises black lash from ethical vegans as CEO John Mackey follows a strict vegan diet. The successful businessman grew up in Houston Texas and told Business Insider that he would traditionally eat processed foods for dinner while watching TV with his family. Now, Mackey steers clear from the processed isle and eats a clean vegan diet and feels amazing at the age of 65.

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14. Jason Mraz

Jason Mraz, singer of the popular song, I'm Yours, committed to a vegan diet to support his friend diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Mraz says he eats mostly raw food and told magazine sources his favorite vegan dish is "Chocomole, a mixture of avocados, dates, cacao, agave nectar, and coconut oil."


15. Leona Lewis

Long time vegan, Leona Lewis grew up in a vegan household and continues to eat a plant-based diet. Lewis first adopted the diet at 12 when she learned about the health risks of eating animal products but told Women's Health Magazine she occasionally eats an omelet. She also mentioned her 2:30 lunch is normally a kale salad topped with dried cranberries and she loves a veggie stir-fry for dinner.


16. Hannah Teter

Hannah Teter changed her diet after watching the documentary, Earthlings when she discovered how "horrible" factory farming is. After a strict vegetarian diet, Teter liked the way she performed as an athlete and believes that her diet helped her win gold at the 2006 games.


17. Maggie Q,

You may recognize Maggie Q as the star of the Nikita series, but in the plant-based world, she's well-known for her heroic activism. Maggie Q has followed a strict vegan diet for 19 years, making her a true veteran of the lifestyle. She made the plant-based diet transition because she felt sluggish and had low energy, she has said. The famous actress keeps in shape by eating veggies and plant-based protein and working out with a passion.

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18. Madelaine Petsch,

Winner of the first Masterchef vegan cook-off with Gordon Ramsay, Madelaine Petsch was raised vegetarian and went completely vegan at age 14. She claims that she started this diet before it was "trendy" and shot a campaign for PETA last year wearing a dress made of bok choy. Petsch says her vegan diet allows her to feel "healthier" and not "lethargic."

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19. Millie Bobbi Brown

After doing a little sleuthing on her social media platforms we think Millie Bobbi Brown qualifies as plant-based. Whether or not she is actually skipping all meat and dairy, one thing is for sure: She eats mostly salads, vegetables and grains and lives a predominantly plant-based lifestyle full of healthy foods.


20. Chloe and Halle Bailey

The grammy-nominated sisters went vegan for a week with their mom but liked it so much they decided to stick with it. For one thing, it helps keep their "voices in shape" by eating a vegan diet and they emphasize the fact that dairy helps to limit extra mucus build-up, according to a PETA interview.

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21. Hilary Duff

Best known for her role as Lizzie Mcguire in the long-running series, Hilary Duff is a recent vegan advocate and entrepreneur. She recently launched the vegan and cruelty-free eyeshadow palette, "Day Dreamer" and changed her diet to plant-based last fall.