Maryland Becomes the First ‘Cool Food’ University

The University of Maryland has become the first university in the world to join the Cool Food Pledge, a growing movement of workplaces, hotels, hospitals and restaurants reducing the climate impact of food they serve. Cool Food commits signatories to slash food-related greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2030. 

Agriculture and changes in land use account for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But food and agriculture can be a powerful climate solution. the production of animal-based foods accounts for two-thirds of agricultural GHG emissions. Plant-based foods almost always have lower environmental impacts. According to WRI research, the average American could cut their diet-related environmental impacts by nearly half just by eating less animal-based foods and more plants.

UMD Dining will leverage its social media, smartphone app and campus programming to share information with students about the nutrition and sourcing of its menu offerings. Through the Cool Food Pledge, the university will engage staff, students and their families in addressing climate change. To meet the goal of reducing emissions, the University will:

  1. Challenge its culinary and operations teams to develop creative ways of using less resource-intensive animal products and more plant-based foods, which require less land, water and other natural resources to produce; 
  2. Engage its Student Government Association and Residence Hall Association  in tastings and campaigns to raise awareness; and 
  3. Ask parents to get involved and send “Recipes from Home” that are better for the planet.

How the Pledge Works

  • Pledge: Signatories commit to a collective target of reducing diet-related GHG emissions associated with the food they serve by 25% by 2030 relative to 2015—a level of ambition in line with keeping global warming below 2⁰C. The Cool Food team advises signatories on how to gather the necessary data and monitor progress.
  • Plan: The Cool Food team helps signatories and their catering companies develop plans for serving more climate-friendly food while meeting other dining-related targets (e.g. number of diners, financial performance, nutrition). The Cool Food Pledge also connects signatories or their catering companies with a network of organizations producing innovative products, solutions and training to achieve more sustainable diets. Cool Food signatories are able to share their experiences and learn from others.
  • Promote: The Cool Food team provides inspiring messaging that signatories can use to support existing sustainability campaigns. The collective performance of companies against the GHG target will be published annually. 

How to Get Involved 

UMD students, staff and faculty are encouraged to share their ideas and questions with us to help advance and promote the Cool Food Pledge. Email UMfood@umd.edu with your ideas. UMD Dining is eager to collaborate across campus to reach its goals.