Navigating Michigan Dining Towards Carbon Neutrality
In Fall 2018, the University of Michigan made a public pledge towards carbon-neutrality. This pledge, along with pressure from concerned citizens at the local and global level, make it essential for Michigan Dining (MDining) to proactively address their greenhouse gas emissions. The goal of this research was to assess the impact of existing MDining initiatives to reduce emissions from purchased food, and to provide recommendations for navigating MDining towards carbon neutrality. The researchers used carbon emission estimates from an existing meta-analysis of food product Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and MDining data on food purchases from the 2018-2019 school year to estimate the impact that the “Sustainable Mondays” initiative had on emissions. The results from those estimates showed that the Sustainable Mondays initiative reduced emissions by up to 45% in some dining halls, but that the implementation varied significantly across dining halls. Based on these findings, as well as best practices from the literature on behavior change and marketing, the researchers recommend that MDining: make Sustainable Mondays implementation more consistent across their dining halls; more effectively share food emissions information with students using existing digital tools; investigate student attitudes via specific survey questions; and explore possibilities such as carbon-positive farming and appropriate use of offsets.
Cameron Clark, MS (BEC); Krysten Dorfman, MS (BEC, CE)