Reducing Emissions in University Dining Halls

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Reducing Emissions in University Dining Halls

Stanford University is committed to minimizing its impact on the environment. One way they do this is by creating sustainable, healthy, ethical food systems in their dining halls.

Reducing Emissions in University Dining Halls. Image of healthy plan-based food.
Stanford University is creating sustainable, healthy, ethical food systems in its dining halls. Image: Pixabay

Stanford University in California is ranked as one of the world’s top universities. It is a leader in providing top-notch education and research in engineering and economics disciplines. The university is also committed to tackling urgent global challenges.

In 2021, the university announced its commitment to reaching net-zero emissions from its operations by 2050. One of the ways they plan to do this is by reducing emissions in their dining halls.

Stanford’s sustainable food program, One Plate, One Planet, works towards reducing emissions by creating a sustainable, healthy, and ethical food system. Their program works towards reducing their food-related environmental impact through innovative procurement strategies, food waste reduction, and promotion of more plant-forward food choices.

All food served, from produce to meat, is selected using strict guidelines. These guidelines consider the best interest of the environment, the social and economic systems on which our food depends, and the health of those to whom they serve food. All the food they purchase, from produce to meat, is local/regional, organic, humane and fair. The university is also committed to creating healthier, more sustainable, and delicious foods using evidence-based research, education, and innovation.

Through their sustainable food programs, the university’s dining halls have moved to menus in which 86 percent of food options are vegetarian and 64 percent are vegan. In doing so, they hope students will be encouraged to eat healthier and more sustainable food. One of the ways they are getting students to make the switch is in how they label their food descriptions.

Research has shown that people assume nutritious foods do not taste as good or are not as filling as unhealthy foods. But when these healthy foods have flavorful, enjoyable, and exciting descriptors associated with them, people give them a try because it matches their top priority of choosing something that tastes good. Instead of “carrots and beans,” their descriptions will say “caramelized slow-roasted carrots” or “sweet sizzlin’ green beans.”

A study conducted by Stanford students across five different dining halls in the United States found that taste-focused labels increased vegetable selection by 29% compared to health-focused labels and 14% compared to basic labels. Vegetable consumption also increased. They discovered that labelling vegetables in tasty and enjoyable ways led to more people eating them.

Stanford is continuously trying to reduce its impact on the environment in their dining halls, and the taste-focused labels are just the beginning. The university is also committed to providing students with quality over quantity to avoid food waste. They donate leftover food from the dining hall to individuals and families. And they empower their chefs to repurpose leftovers.

The efforts of Stanford university are commendable and have been shown to have an impact on the students and the planet. Hopefully, universities from across the globe will be inspired by these efforts and work towards reducing their own impacts.

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