The life cycle of food is responsible for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through production, processing, distribution, and waste. The environmental impact of specific foods varies by product, production method, and sometimes by region. Educational institutions such as Smith College have both the means and the incentive to make responsible food purchasing decisions that align with institutional values and emissions goals, and have been starting to make these changes using sustainability frameworks such as the Real Food Challenge. While such commitments can reduce GHG emissions, an intentional focus on emissions reduction through procurement will make a larger impact. Throughout this project we worked with Dining Services at Smith College to analyze current purchasing practices in beef and dairy milk — two of the highest GHG-emitting food categories both at Smith and globally. The methods and results of our project gave Smith Dining the resources to run rough emissions and cost analyses for different substitution scenarios.
Presenters: Aidan, Frances, Emelyn, and Kelsey majored in Environmental Science & Policy as members of the Smith College Class of 2020. They conducted research on Smith’s Scope 3 dining emissions as their capstone project this past spring, which received AASHE’s 2020 Undergraduate Research Award.