Food at UMass Amherst
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UMass Amherst Dining Initiates Ground-breaking Program to Measure Carbon Footprint for Individual Dishes

AMHERST, Mass. – Bolstering UMass Amherst’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2032, UMass Amherst Dining Services has made the commitment to measure the carbon impact of their menu. In doing so they will be the first college or university dining program in the country to include carbon footprint for individual dishes.

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The initiative will help students reduce their carbon footprint with their everyday food choices by including a carbon rating on the menu identifiers. In a fall survey of over 800 people, 88 percent of students indicated the climate crisis informs their decisions at least some of the time. In addition, 75 percent indicated they believe their food choices impact the environment and 76 percent said reducing their carbon footprint is important to them.

Launching during Earth Week, the first phase of this project will feature an A-E carbon rating for all menu items at Hampshire Dining Commons on the menu identifiers, online and on the UMass Dining App.

Determining the carbon footprint of a dish is a multifaceted process that incorporates things like water consumption as well as storage and transport. To create a clear, concise way to communicate these values for their customers, UMass Dining is working with My Emissions, a leading provider of food carbon labelling. My Emissions’ standardized process makes it easy to calculate the carbon footprint from a recipe and demonstrates the impact of a customer’s food choices using a rating scale. Factoring in all the contributing elements, My Emissions has developed an A-E rating scale based on the carbon intensity (“A” signals Low impact and “E” signals Very High). 

Matthew Isaacs, co-founder of My Emissions said, “Eating low carbon food is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. As an award-winning university food service provider, UMass Dining Services are the ideal partner for us to launch our carbon label into the U.S. I hope this inspires people to make more sustainable choices, and that many other institutions follow their lead.”

“We are excited to launch this carbon rating system in our dining program as part of our efforts to empower students with information so that they can make educated decisions for both their personal and planetary health,” said Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises.