The amazon rainforest burns as the world watches on, helpless and desperate. Closer to home, the extinction rebellion protest mounts in intensity, our TV screens adorned by images of arrests & demonstration. The cries of Greta Thunberg ring out across the planet, demanding action for our future, whilst yet another headline is published with a looming doomsday prediction, should we not make drastic changes. To the average person the situation is paralysing, the sheer scale of the issues rendering any small action seemingly obsolete. Yet, our participation in the solution is demanded, otherwise demonstrating a lack of empathy or care for our planet, our shared environment.
It’s extremely difficult to attain a level of perspective that makes it clear just how, on a local level, we participate in this global crisis. Our individual actions are so far removed from the fires of the amazon, and the interim waters so murky, that any indication we participate is easy to swat away. Yet our collective lifestyle choices, a culmination of those individual actions, are intrinsically implied in the disaster that is our ongoing & seemingly unconscious destruction of the planet. Our western food system places such a strain on our planet’s natural resources, we’d need 2 planets just to feed everyone.
As far as eating goes, animal-based foods are the most destructive in their demand on resources. It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of beef & 900 gallons for 1 pound of cheese. Currently, to support the demand on animal protein, livestock occupies 45% of the earth's total land, and 1/3 of the earth's ice-free land. Animal agriculture is widely recognised as the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution & habitat destruction. It's been suggested by national geographic we could even face fishless oceans by 2049, should our current habits continue. The problem, like the flashing images on our TV screens documenting the disaster, is that the solution seems so far away. But what if part of that solution was on our high street?
I am not advocating for everyone to become a vegan, nor do I believe it’s always the most sustainable way to feed the world. What I do believe, however, and what is supported by much research, is that moving toward a plant-based food system is key to the survival of our planet’s ecosystem and our ability to feed a growing population. If everyone in the U.K (all 67 million of us!) chose plant-based foods one day per week, or even for one meal per week, we’d see the cumulative effort work in wonderful ways. We would, collectively, reduce our strain on the planet’s resources & create a more sustainable food system. Not to mention, the health benefits of eating more fruits & vegetables!
The main issues preventing people from choosing plant-based foods is convenience (availability), price, quality & social acceptance. When i opened Erpingham House in the summer of 2018 in Norwich, I recognised two things. Firstly, there were not enough “vegans” to support a fully vegan restaurant, and those who were vegan were already eating this way. Secondly, if i positioned the restaurant as a vegan restaurant, i wouldn’t appeal to a mainstream audience, who could really bring about the necessary change. Therefore, we marketed Erpingham House in such a way that it was on-trend for a mainstream audience, serving great food & drinks, that just happen to be vegan.
Erpingham House allows customers to make more sustainable choices, that are as kind to their bodies as they are the planet. Whether it be through plant-based smoothies served in metal straws, or offsetting the carbon emissions of their cauliflower curry by planting a fruit tree in the developing world, the concept is to make plant-based dining accessible, delicious & cool. Not if, but when we have an Erpingham House in all major cities, the ability to make such choices will be far easier.
On our journey so far, the varied audience we have attracted has surprised even me, who’s very intention it was to diversify the customer base from day one. We have people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities visit Erpingham House, some travelling hours to eat here. We’ve created a sub-brand that offers vegan pizza to enjoy at home, an event space that’s created a working community and wellness events, and a cafe that allows customers to grab & go. Access, convenience & simplicity are the remedy to what can be a confusing, complicated & scary change for some. We want to empower & support the individual to be the healthiest & most conscious version of themselves, to be the change they wish to see.