The University of Maryland became the first university system this semester to sign the Cool Foods Pledge to reduce the environmental footprint of campus dining services by offering more sustainably prepared plant-based menu options.
Signatories of the Cool Foods Pledge commit to collectively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030, relative to their 2015 emissions – an effort to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
The Cool Foods Pledge is an initiative by the World Resources Institute, whose research found that food production accounts for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Signatories of the Cool Foods Pledge will collect data on their food production and work to decrease the products and processes that contribute to the bulk of their emissions. Other signatories of the Cool Foods Pledge include Boston Medical Center, Hilton Hotels, Morgan Stanley and UCLA Health.
Signing the pledge connects University of Maryland dining services with a network of organizations aligned with the Cool Foods goals to discuss their strategies for reducing their environmental footprint.
“Simple nudges, like using more appetizing language to name plant-based dishes, can change people’s behavior in big ways. Through the Cool Food Pledge, signatories tap the latest behavioral science to help consumers choose foods with lower carbon footprints. This is fresh ground in the battle against climate change,” said Daniel Vennard, director of the World Resources Institute.
As the first college campus to sign the pledge, UMD will challenge its culinary teams to decrease the amount of animal-based foods served in dining halls and develop creative menu options using more plant-based ingredients.
Bart Hipple, an assistant director of Dining Services at the University of Maryland said signing the pledge is a great way to both reduce the campus environmental footprint and educate students about how their food choices affect the planet.
“All food is good food,” Hipple said. “We are not encouraging people to avoid or eliminate anything in particular from their diet, we just want them to pay attention and think about the sustainability of the food they’re eating.”
Colleen Wright-Riva, director of Dining Services at the University of Maryland said, “Students have told us they care about fighting climate change. Now, the food they eat—a huge part of their impact on the planet—can reflect these values and help achieve a more sustainable future.”