The University of Pittsburgh is among the first signatories — and one of the first universities worldwide — to join in the Cool Food Pledge, a global initiative led by the World Resources Institute to cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030.
The institute announced Pitt’s membership Sept. 24, 2019, alongside the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Joining Pitt as new signatories in this groundbreaking initiative are IKEA, BASF, the World Bank and the City of Ghent, Belgium.
The Cool Food Pledge currently encompasses nearly two dozen organizations including hotels, restaurants, hospitals and corporate dining facilities. The institute aims to have 250 signatories by 2021.
The current member organizations collectively serve more than 800 million meals each year. Cutting their emissions 25 percent will avoid more than 780,000 tons of food-related greenhouse gas emissions annually — the equivalent of taking more than 160,000 cars off the road, the institute estimates.
“As a leader in sustainable dining, serving 30,000 meals a day, the University of Pittsburgh is proud to join with organizations worldwide in offering delicious food that is healthy and better for the planet,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability. “The Cool Food Pledge reinforces our sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and serving more local, plant-based and organic foods.”
Among Pitt’s commitments in its 2018 sustainability plan is to “strive to build food systems that support a healthy body and a healthy planet, strengthen local communities and minimize waste.”
Food-related goals in the 61-point plan include reducing the amount of animal products served across campus by 25% by 2025. Food production accounts for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and serving more plant-based foods and less meat can reduce this impact.
Pitt Dining, in partnership with Sodexo, has a comprehensive array of sustainability initiatives, including buying locally sourced food products; offering a variety of delicious plant-based meal options; and reducing food waste, which is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Pitt’s two main dining facilities, Market Central and the Perch at Sutherland, are both designated under the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants program for their leadership in waste reduction, water conservation, energy efficiency, employee care, nutrition and responsible sourcing.
In addition to plant-based meal choices throughout the dining facilities, both locations feature Kale to Pitt stations, which offer 100 percent vegan meals.
There’s tofu — including curried or honey glazed — but the stations offer a world of other delicious options as well. On any day there might be Ethiopian vegetable stew with turmeric rice pilaf; crabless crab cakes (made with heart of palm) with mashed potatoes and lemon chimichurri sauce; lentil shepherd’s pie or falafel served with Turkish bulgar wheat and garbanzo pilaf.
Pitt Dining, in partnership with Sodexo, also supports student sustainability initiatives including the Veg Collective, which has compiled a vegan master list for on-campus dining; and Food Recovery Heroes, which connects surplus food on campus with organizations that fight hunger. The student group recently was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Resources Council for its work.
Said Nick Goodfellow, Pitt’s sustainability coordinator for auxiliary services, “Joining with other leaders in the Cool Food Pledge adds to our strong commitment to a holistic campus dining program that encourages healthful diets and planet-friendly choices.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity to align Pitt’s ambitious initiatives with a global movement to reduce emissions from food.”