Emissions from UBC campus food systems are roughly 3/4 that of all UBC's emissions from campus operations. From food production and procurement, provision and consumption, to waste and recovery, our current food systems have a huge carbon footprint -- along with major impacts on biodiversity and climate justice as well. And this isn't only a UBC challenge -- Over 60% of food produced in Canada each year is wasted, generating about 56.5 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions from food waste alone!
To accelerate climate-friendly changes to our food system, critical action on a collective and individual scale is needed in two priority areas: (1) reducing food greenhouse gas emissions, and (2) promoting resilient and regenerative food systems. Check out our collection of resources and everyday actions that you can take to help support this shift at UBC and beyond:
Tips for Reducing Food Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Be a food waste warrior.
Buying Food or Ordering Catering for an Event?
Purchase the appropriate amount of food per person -- don't "over order" food, to reduce food waste.
Ask for RSVPs to catered events, and for attendees to contact you if their RSVP changes - so you can order the right amount of food.
Have leftover food at your event? Encourage attendees as well as event volunteers and staffers to bring containers so they can take home any leftovers, or consider taking it yourself to share with your UBC community, workplace, club or residence. Keep food safety in mind and stay up to date on COVID safety restrictions.
Buying food for yourself?
Measure your food waste to know what you waste. This can help inform how much you actually need to buy.
Before you go shopping, consider: making a meal plan for the week, drafting a list of groceries, and/ore taking a picture of your fridge, so you buy only what you need.
Making Or SToring Food?
Get creative in cooking your leftovers in new and exciting ways to avoid throwing them out. | Difference between "best before" and "expiration" dates
Learn how to store food properly to prolong the freshness and quality of the food. | Fridge guide
Purchase and promote the consumption of foods that are plant-forward (meat, animal product and dairy free). New to plant-forward food? Try exploring a diversity of delicious varieties of legumes and plants! Students, try the UBC Food Hub Market, available for a 9-week pilot, which provides low cost groceries for the UBC Vancouver campus community, particularly students, including a range of healthy pantry staples and fresh food.
Make plant-based meals the default option for catered meetings and events, while taking into consideration specific cultural dietary needs.
Look for and use the UBC Climate-Friendly Food System label (currently available at Mercante & Open Kitchen) to help guide campus food choices. A menu item with the Climate-Friendly Food Label next to it means that the item generated less GHG emissions, water, and nitrogen per 100 grams of food produced than the other items on the menu.
Reduce food packaging waste.
City of Vancouver estimates 2 million plastic bags and 2.6 million coffee cups are thrown in the trash every week. Every small choice adds up when magnified across the region. Choose reusable options to reduce landfill waste.
Love your mug! Bring your own reusable mug and reusable food containers for discounts at campus food service outlets.
Say no to bottled water: Millions of plastic water bottles end up in the region’s landfills each year, where they take 1,000 years to decompose. Save money and the environment by choosing tap water instead. Learn more and view water filling stations across campus.
Avoid plastic cutlery and straws: Bring your own cutlery or request compostable or reusable cutlery at campus food outlets. UBC Food Services has demonstrated leadership by eliminating single-use plastic straws and cutlery to reduce waste.
Green-To Go: Save 20¢ when you bring your own container or use a Green2Go container at UBC Food Services outlets.
Buy In Bulk, And Use Reusable Containers. Some pioneering package-free Metro Vancouver stores include Nada and the Soap Dispensary, but you can bring your own washable fabric produce bags, reusable grocery bags and bulk food jars or containers almost anywhere!
Doing a catering order for an event or meeting?
Make reusable dishware the default:
- Update your invite: Request that event attendees bring their own bottle or mug if they want to enjoy a beverage. Offer water from the tap or beverages served in pitchers or reusable dispensers.
- Have access to mugs, cups, plates or utensils? Consider using these rather than ordering disposable items. You can probably save some money in the process if the company charges for them. If you don't have a set of reusable dishware, consider buying some for your group or office just for catered events.
- Refer to our Zero Waste Event Planning Guide for detailed guidance regarding how to reduce waste before and for events.
Select, and request that your caterers utilize, bulk food packaging wherever possible. Some examples of this include:
- Beverages, creamers and condiments in reusable dispensers instead of individually packaged condiments and beverages
- Water, ice tea, coffee, tea in pitchers; coffee grounds over individual pods
- Bulk salads, wraps, sushi and other grouped food items over individually-wrapped portions
Choose fresh whole foods.
Buy unprocessed, fresh whole foods wherever possible.
Offer fresh, unprocessed food, snacks and catered meals for activities, meetings and events.
Cook and bring fresh whole foods for lunch, and share home-made recipes with friends and colleagues. As a bonus, cooking homemade meals with fresh, whole ingredients (especially if bought in bulk) can often be cheaper than ordering takeout or eating out!
Tips for Promoting Resilient and Regenerative Food Systems
Eat local and follow the seasons.
Choose food that is locally produced, raised and processed that is also in season. In this guide, local food is defined as food that is grown within 150 miles/241km from campus.
UBC campus food providers put priority on food grown closest to campus. They look on campus first, then to the Lower Mainland, then BC, then Canada, before they look to globally sourced equivalent products.
Consider supporting UBC food providers before ordering delivery from the greater Metro Vancouver area -- delivery vehicles and packaging can come with a large carbon footprint. UBCEats delivers reheatable meals prepared by chefs on campus right to your door!
Explore Metro Vancouver's active Farmer's Market scene. There's even a Farm Market on campus, run by UBC Farm! Check out these resources to find what's in season: BC Farm & Food / Buy BC / BC Farmer Market
Support food that guarantees respect for working conditions or preservation of biodiversity.
When we make conscious food choices, we support biodiversity conservation and workers’ rights. Make nature- and people-positive food the norm by buying food that guarantees fair working conditions and preservation of biodiversity through certification systems. These include:
Climate-Friendly Food System Certification: Look for the CFFS label (currently available at Mercante & Open Kitchen) and choose the green food option. You help reduce GHG emissions, water and nitrogen use. Look for these labels.
Fair Trade Certification: Look for these labels and choose coffee, teas and food items with them. Fair Trade guarantees higher social, environmental and pay standards for farmers and workers. Learn more at Fairtrade Canada | Fairtrade International.
Bird Friendly® Certification: Look for these labels and choose coffee or cocoa items with them. Bird-Friendly preserves critical habitat for birds and wildlife, fights climate change, protects biodiversity, and supports farmers committed to conserving bird and wildlife habitat by farming sustainably.
Ocean Wise Certification: Look for these labels and choose to support sustainably caught seafood options that support healthy oceans.
Organic Certification: Look for these labels and support regenerative and resilient organic food and farming systems across Canada.
Non-GMO food. Look for these labels and choose to help protect biodiversity.
- UBC Food System Project
- UBC Climate-Friendly Food System labels
- Zero Waste Event Planning Guide
- BC Farm & Food / Buy BC / BC Farmer Market
- Vancouver Farmer’s Markets
- BC Association of Farmers’ Markets
Not everyone has access to fresh, healthy food. If you need support, consider these UBC resources:
These Climate-Friendly Food Systems Actions and Resources were generated by the UBC Climate-Friendly Food Systems Action Team, part one of SEEDS Sustainability Program’s interdisciplinary initiative the UBC Food System Project.