Maryland Becomes the First “Cool Food” University

As students head to the University of Maryland for the start of fall classes, campus chefs are preparing more sustainable food in dining halls, campus cafes and event catering. The University of Maryland has become the world’s first university to join the Cool Food Pledge, a growing movement of workplaces, hotels, hospitals and restaurants reducing the climate impact of food they serve. Cool Food commits signatories to collectively slash food-related greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2030.

Agriculture and changes in land use account for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But food and agriculture can also be a powerful climate solution. Producing animal-based foods accounts for two-thirds of agricultural GHG emissions. Plant-based foods almost always have lower environmental impacts. According to WRI research, the average American could cut their diet-related environmental impacts by nearly half just by eating less animal-based foods and more plants.
UMD Dining will leverage its social media, smartphone app and campus programming to share information with students about the nutrition and sourcing of its menu offerings. Through the Cool Food Pledge, the university will engage staff, students and their families in addressing climate change. To meet the goal of reducing emissions, the University will:

  1. Challenge its culinary and operations teams to develop creative ways of using less resource-intensive animal products and more plant-based foods, which require less land, water and other natural resources to produce;
  2. Engage its Student Government Association and Residence Hall Association in tastings and campaigns to raise awareness; and
  3. Ask parents to get involved and send “Recipes from Home” that are better for the planet.

“Maryland Dining serves 6 million meals per year. We have an enormous opportunity to reduce the University’s climate footprint by offering more sustainable food options. At the same time, we can engage young people in building patterns for eating sustainably well past their time on campus,” said Colleen Wright-Riva, Director of Dining Services, the University of Maryland. “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.”

“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, World Resources Institute, which serves as secretariat of Cool Food.

In addition to UMD, signatories to the Cool Food Pledge include: Morgan Stanley, Hilton, Genentech, Max Burgers, Monde Nissin, UCSF Health, UCSD Health, UCLA Health, UC Davis Health, Overlook, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health, Virginia Mason Medical Center, University of Wisconsin Health, and Farmers Restaurant Group. Collectively, they serve more than 100 million meals annually.

First announced at the Global Climate Action Summit in Fall 2018, the Cool Food Pledge is an initiative of World Resources Institute, UN Environment, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth, Climate Focus, EAT, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The Cool Food Pledge is pleased to have Sodexo as a supporter, promoting Cool Food’s activities with the dining facilities it serves. The Cool Food Pledge will host its inaugural celebration in New York on September 24, 2019, when signatories will announce progress and call on others to put sustainability on the menu.