Daniel Day Lewis (from left), Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway and Christoph Waltz celebrate their wins a the 2103 Oscar ceremony. The rise of vegetarians like Hathaway and many others may have influenced the change in menu, though some say the time for the idea had simply come. (Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com)
Hollywood is going green (again). Though it might seem antithetical to the incredibly wasteful entertainment industry as a whole, the non-cynical side of me thinks that every sustainable action — even if considered moral grandstanding or virtue signaling by naysayers — is good news. This time, the focus is on food.
The Academy of Motion Pictures announced on Jan. 7, that food served at Oscar events will be almost entirely plant-based. Both the annual luncheon for Oscar nominees and the finger food served before the actual ceremony on Feb. 9 will be 100% plant-based. Reuters also reports that "the menu for the Governors Ball, a glitzy event held immediately after the Oscar ceremony, will be 70% plant-based and 30% vegetarian, fish and meat."
Additionally, bottled water and other beverages in plastic containers will no longer be served at any Oscar events. The Academy explained in a statement that it was an "organization of storytellers from around the world, and we owe our global membership a commitment to supporting the planet. They also noted that, "For the past seven years, the Oscars show has had a zero-carbon imprint. We continue to expand our sustainability plan with the ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral."
Going vegan is no trivial matter. Researchers at the University of Oxford discovered that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by up to 73%. Lead author Joseph Poore went further, saying, "A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use."
Vegan goes mainstream
Indeed, the Oscars are merely jumping on the plant-based bandwagon that has flourished since awards season began. Plant-based menus were also served at the Golden Globes, the Critics' Choice Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards dinners earlier this year. The Globes ended up serving mushrooms as "scallops" and a Paris-worthy dessert called a "vegan opera dome" — made without eggs, gelatin or butter.
Lorenzo Soria, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which hosts the Golden Globes every year, told Sharon Swart at The Hollywood Reporter he wasn't sure how the vegan menu would be received but was "pleasantly surprised" by the attention it generated. "We touched a nerve," he said. "We did this at a moment when everybody is concerned about the environment and climate change."
Though many questioned if long-time vegan and activist Joaquin Phoenix, currently an Oscar frontrunner for his role in "The Joker," played a key role in the push to vegan, Soria says the change was supported by multiple actors in the industry.
"We are seeing a lot of changes and I think it is because of people making big bold strokes," musician Linda Perry added at another star-studded gala. "Being vegan really means it's better for the world. The dairy industry kills the ozone. There are so many things that meat and dairy do to the planet that's not good. So being vegan is helping."
Fashion on the other hand...
Also on the green docket? Fashion. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA; more or less the British version of the Oscars) issued their guests a set of fashion guidelines this year, along with their own plant-based menu and eco-friendly travel tips. In it, they suggested invitees lessen their fashion footprint by renting, re-wearing or buying vintage — instead of having a new couture gown or suit made to measure. Sadly, this attempt was not as successful.
The Guardian reported that only a few celebrities bothered to get the memo, including Joaquin Phoenix and the Duchess of Cambridge. Phoenix drew both praise and derision when it was announced that he would commit to wearing only one tux, made by sustainability-minded designer Stella McCartney, during the entire awards season.
"It was a strange disconnect," journalist Hannah Marriott writes. "Perhaps BAFTA issued the advice too late for the celebrities to come on board? Perhaps the celebrity-fashion industrial complex is just too profitable and entrenched to shake up in one awards season?"
If you consider that fashion production, manufacturing, shipping and use is responsible for around 10% of the world's annual carbon emissions, this was more than a missed moment. Hopefully, both the entertainment industry and celebrities themselves will continue to use their global platform for good in the coming years — whether it's food, fashion or flights.
"It is problematic to speak out on the climate emergency if you're flying on private jets," climate scientist Peter Kalmus told AFP. But "putting the planet above your career" makes a public statement that climate change "is indeed an emergency," he added.