Simply look for the green Earth icon on the menu in all dining halls to easily identify which foods are climate friendly.
Incorporating more of these foods into your diet, instead of higher impact ones, can make a great difference without having to make a giant shift in your diet.
The climate friendly icon includes all plant-based foods, as well as proteins such as fish and poultry, while higher impact foods – like pork, beef, and some dairy products – are excluded. Thresholds are based on data from the World Resources Institute’s Cool Food Calculator. The calculations include factors from agricultural supply chains, excluding land use change.
The graph below shows which foods are included and omitted, and illustrates how choosing climate friendly foods can have a great impact on lowering your carbon footprint. Foods to the left of the dashed line are considered to be climate friendly, while foods to the right of the dashed line have a higher environmental impact.
Special thanks to the Sustainability Innovation Seed Grant Low Carbon Dining Project team who collaborated with us on this initiative.
The Climate Friendly designation applies to an individual serving. A meal consisting of multiple servings of a Climate Friendly item or multiple Climate Friendly items may not fall within the Climate Friendly threshold. Additionally, some items can be customized – for example, adding cheese to a burger – which could make an item exceed the Climate Friendly threshold.
This is a new initiative, if you see a menu item that you think either should or should not have the Climate Friendly designation, please reach out to Lexie Raczka.
Why Choose Climate Friendly Foods?
Every region on Earth is already affected by climate change, and simultaneous extreme weather events are becoming more common. While human activities are the main driver of climate change, it is not too late to act and every action matters.
One of the most effective ways we can help address climate change is through our diet choices. Did you know that agriculture accounts for over 20% of total worldwide carbon emissions? This means that our diet has a large impact on climate change, but it also means that our eating habits can greatly decrease our carbon footprint.
Most of the emissions from agriculture are attributed to livestock farming, with cattle farming being the biggest contributor. Dairy products like butter, cream, and cheese also have substantially high emissions; so when trying to be environmentally conscious it is best to try to avoid beef and dairy products altogether. Vegetables produce far fewer emissions than animal proteins in general, so gravitating towards a more plant-based diet is also impactful.
However, you don’t have to drastically change your diet to make a difference. By simply choosing less carbon intensive meat you can have a positive impact on the planet. For example, chicken is far less carbon intensive than beef and uses 10 times fewer resources; replacing a five-ounce steak with chicken or beans once a week for a year saves the equivalent of 29.6 or 36.7 gallons of gas, respectively. Reducing global beef consumption is also said to be necessary for meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s goal of limiting Global Warming to 1.5 Celsius.