New pledge commits to lowering the carbon footprint of NYU dining facilities worldwide by promoting plant based food options.

Stir fried veggies

In honor of World Food Day 2020, New York University announced that it has committed to reducing food-related greenhouse gas emissions on all its campuses by 25% by the year 2030. Through a comprehensive, 10-year plan devised in partnership with its dining services partner, Chartwells, NYU dining halls and catering operations will gradually promote a shift to more sustainable food products through a combination of enhanced plant-based offerings and educational outreach.

“What we eat matters,” said Andrew Hamilton, President of New York University. “Global food systems account for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s well documented that animal-based products on the whole can have a greater impact than legumes, vegetables, and fruit. When fully operational, NYU’s dining halls serve over 6 million meals each year, which means that addressing the environmental footprint of food is a powerful addition to NYU’s - and New York’s - efforts to curb climate change.”

NYU’s food pledge will encompass all dining facilities in NYU’s campuses in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi, collectively accounting for 23 NYU-run dining facilities around the world.

NYU will join over 30 other organizations around the world who serve more than 800 million meals annually in taking the Cool Food Pledge, a public commitment to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2030. The food pledge is the most recent in a series of ambitious sustainability-related goals NYU has undertaken; in 2012, NYU met its 10-year pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 30 percent in just five years. The University is now on its way to reducing emissions 50 percent by 2025 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2040.

The Cool Food Pledge organization will provide guidance on innovative ways to serve more climate-friendly food while meeting other dining-related targets. Each signatory receives an annual report showing greenhouse gas emissions by food type, trends year-over-year, and comparison to overall performance.

NYU has already incorporated the Eat-Lancet and Menus of Change frameworks into its dining principles, emphasizing a variety of sustainability objectives, including an increase in plant-based menu items and local sourcing of ingredients. All residential NYU dining locations, including Downstein, Lipton, Jasper Kane Cafe, Palladium & Third North, are also Green Restaurant Association certified, which holds them accountable for meeting additional sustainability measures related to water, waste, energy, and more. In joining the Cool Food Pledge, NYU seeks to make these efforts more public, raise the profile of the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food, and assist others to do the same, according to Cecil Scheib, NYU’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

“We’re improving our dining offerings to address the climate impacts of food, but it has the added benefit of contributing to a healthier, more diverse, and delicious array of offerings in our dining halls,” Scheib said. “Daily menus will expand vegetarian and vegan entrees that are healthy, protein rich, and wellness-oriented. Where ice cream and cheese are offered, vegan options are made available and Beyond Burgers are served at every grill where hamburgers are on the menu. Making these alternatives easy to find right next to their meat and dairy counterparts elevates and normalizes these options, and the NYU community is eating it up.”

Beyond increasing sustainable offerings, NYU Dining has also worked closely with students to raise awareness among its community on incorporating sustainable eating practices into our diets. Since 2019, hundreds of NYU students have attended educational programs and cooking demonstrations on how to prepare their own delicious, healthy, and planet-friendly meals. One Steinhardt graduate student, Jon Chin – founder of the meal swipes trading app, Share Meals – has devoted his years at NYU to increasing student access to affordable, healthy, and sustainable food. Recently, he launched Open Kitchen, a project to build community through cooking demonstrations. Between this project and NYU Eats’ Teaching Kitchen, students have access to regular cooking classes that highlight inexpensive, easy, and plant-forward recipes.

Students have been increasingly active in leading the charge for sustainability on campus. In addition to Open Kitchen, NYU student groups centered around food and sustainability include the Animal Welfare Collective, Community Agriculture Project, and even NYU’s new Mycology Club, which collectively have a following of over 1,000 students.

“NYU Eats is proud to be a part of the solution to one of the major challenges of our time. The Cool Food Pledge will allow us to measure our impact and when necessary make adjustments to achieve our goal.” said Kathrina O'Mahony, Senior Director, Campus Services.

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.

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