NRDC Calls on Universities to Consider Climate in Campus Food Purchasing Decisions

Review Compares Company’s Efforts and Urges College Presidents on Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions in Campus Cafeterias

WASHINGTON – NRDC issued a letter today to 3,000 college presidents highlighting differences in corporate food service company polices to help campus cafeteria supply contracts meet university targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.    

“The food service industry can play a key role in ensuring we meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and stave off the worse effects of climate change,” said Sujatha Bergen, Health Campaigns Director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “We urge the sector to immediately establish aggressive goals to reduce the emissions from their menus.”

As operators of school dining halls across the country, food service companies are among the largest sellers of meals in the nation and can substantially reduce the volume of climate-intensive foods they sell on campuses. NRDC has long advocated for climate action through food, calling on food supply companies to cut emissions associated with climate intensive foods, such as red meat and dairy, by 20 percent. The United Nations recommends reducing consumption of climate-intensive foods as a key strategy to combat global warming. Beef, for instance, is about 34 times more greenhouse gas intensive as legumes like beans and lentils as highlighted in NRDC’s issue paper Less Beef, Less Carbon.

In the letter sent to college executives, NRDC’s review of food service company efforts to reduce menu emissions found mixed results:

  • Sodexo is ahead of the competition in establishing an overall goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent by 2025 and quantifying the percentage of greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate-intensive foods. The company estimates that at least 70% of emissions from its supply chain are associated with animal products and pledges to establish goals to reduce these emissions. Sodexo announced today their efforts to quantify and address the diet-related drivers of climate change.
  • Compass established a goal to reduce beef purchases by 30 percent by 2020 but is behind in fulfilling this commitment. 
  • Aramark has yet to establish any numeric goals to reduce its company-wide and menu emissions.  

“Aramark should catch up to industry leaders and demonstrate a real commitment to fighting climate change,” stated Cristina Cabada, student at the University of Florida, which is currently considering a renewal of their dining hall service contract with Aramark, “Otherwise, the University should make a change.”

The full review and letter to college presidents can be found here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC



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