Blog Post Author: Shalini Nanayakkara | Posted by Juliana Campbell | Photo Credit: UBC Farm Market
Introducing UBC’s Climate-Friendly Food Label
Delicious. Healthy. Climate-Friendly.
Ever wonder how our food choices impact the climate? Us, too. That’s why UBC has developed our first ever climate-friendly food label that tracks how much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are produced in campus meals. Now available at Mercante.
Yes – it’s possible to have a delicious meal that is also better for our planet. Just follow our guide:
Just like the icons you would find for the level of spice in a dish, you can now see if your meal resulted in low, medium, or high GHG emissions through its production.
Used with permission from UCLA Housing and UCLA Department of Community Health Sciences
The climate is affected by GHGs - these are gases like carbon dioxide and methane, which are released by fossil fuels, waste in landfills, livestock, and more. Food accounts for 26% of global GHG emissions (Poore & Nemecek, 2018). Yup, that’s over a quarter of global GHG emissions.
The highest amount of food-related GHGs emitted is the actual growing and raising of food (up to 82%!). “Ruminant” products like beef, lamb and cheese emit the most GHGs in food production.
GHGs are an important consideration, but they aren’t the only thing that constitutes a climate-friendly food system. UBC and many other institutions believe that a climate-friendly food system promotes positive outcomes for people, animals and the planet. This means that we have to think about how our food is biodiversity-friendly, if our food growers are fairly compensated, and whether the food is desirable and accessible to everyone in the community, regardless of economic situation, cultural background, and more.
Thinking beyond GHG emissions can ensure that our climate-friendly food system is resilient, sustainable for the long-term, and leaves no one behind.
The Climate-Friendly Food System Action Team is a UBC Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2030 Working Group, working to identifying measures and actions that when bundled together, can have a significant impact in lowering UBC’s GHG emissions over the next next 10+ years (i.e. to 2030), supporting UBC’s Climate Emergency Response. Food is a major contributor to climate change globally and at UBC. UBC campus food emissions are the second highest category in Extended Impact emissions after commuting.
Reducing these emissions is a complex process that will involve a lot of initiatives across campus – including a climate-friendly food label.
The climate-friendly food label was developed to address community and institutional concerns around food and climate action through an integrated evidence-based and community-based approach. This means that the label emerged from 1) conducting literature reviews of food sustainability research (including student-led research conducted with SEEDS), 2) conducting environmental scans of what already exists in the eco-labelling world, and 3) receiving community and stakeholder input into our decision-making throughout the process. Fun fact, over 78% of students surveyed in a SEEDS student research study said they wanted to see an environmental impact label on campus!
The label is just one initiative to address the impacts of the campus food system. Our aim is for the label to connect individuals making informed decisions to the university’s wider work to transform the food system.
Climate-friendly food labels that identify GHG emissions are becoming increasingly prevalent at universities. Harvard University, Freie Universität Berlin and the Universities of California Berkeley and Los Angeles have already developed food emissions labels, with many more universities working on their own. Labels are an inclusive way for organizations to help their communities to make more informed decisions with their food while also creating change in the wider campus food system.
By using the climate-friendly food label to inform your food decisions, you are:
- Purchasing food that is better for the climate, if you choose a green labelled item
- Encouraging more climate-friendly options to be available on campus
- Supporting UBC to create system-wide transformation in our food system
This is just the first phase of the climate-friendly food label. Stay tuned for more.