UBC Graduate Research

Climate-Friendly Food Systems (CFFS) : Labelling Project : Development of the Evaluation Framework for UBC's first Climate-Friendly Food Label (Pilot Phase 1, 2, 3) Huang, Silvia


How is the University of British Columbia (UBC) able to offer a system that helps consumers choose more Climate-Friendly menu items? From a global perspective, food systems are an enormous driver of climate change and contribute to more than one-third (34%) of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which represent 17.9 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2eq) (Crippa et al., 2021). Other estimates suggest that the food system is responsible for one-quarter (26%) of global GHG emissions, representing 13.6 billion tonnes of CO2eq (Poore & Nemecek, 2018). This brings a range of opportunities for actions to mitigate the effect of food systems on the climate. The Climate-Friendly Food Systems (CFFS) labelling project at UBC takes action to inform the UBC community of the climate impact information of menu items they purchase every day at UBC Food Services (UBCFS). The label provides an opportunity for the campus community to make informed purchasing decisions that can promote a Climate-Friendly Food System. This research report was prepared by the CFFS data analyst, supervised by a member of the CFFS Action Team. This report is focused on the data analysis and the back-end implementation of the CFFS Labelling pilot and is complementary to the report on the communication and definition side prepared by the CFFS communication and engagement coordinator. The CFFS Labelling pilot is part of the bold actions taken by UBC in response to the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2030 scope 3 emission reduction goal. The CFFS Action Team has been formed to accelerate transitions toward a Climate-Friendly Food System and advance the CAP 2030 food-related actions and priorities. This project is part of the SEEDS Sustainability Program research collaboration to develop, pilot, and evaluate UBC’s first Climate-Friendly Food Label that aims to evaluate the climate impact of menu items sold at UBCFS outlets and operationalize the CFFS food label to inform Climate-Friendly menu choices. The research includes developing a methodology and framework that assesses GHG emissions and other CFFS attributes for menu items at UBCFS. It also evaluates perceptions and the impacts of the Climate-Friendly Food Label on awareness, knowledge, and purchasing decisions. This project utilized a combination of literature review, discussion with peer institutions, and assessment of the feasibility in the UBC’s context to decide the methodology. The primary data sources (recipes and sales data) were extracted from the UBCFS inventory management system, Optimum Control (OC). The data on carbon, nitrogen, and water footprint factors came from external secondary data sources. The main deliverable of the project is the evaluation framework that conducts the evaluation process of recipes automatically once GHG emission factors have been assigned to each ingredient, and is updated to incorporate additional attributes and adapt to the expansion of the CFFS Label. The evaluation framework is able to read the primary data automatically and output the total GHG emissions, nitrogen footprint, and water footprint of each menu item. To determine the cut-offs for the levels of the label according to GHG emissions, we established a 2019 UBCFS GHG emission baseline and set cut-offs in accordance with the CAP 2030 GHG scope 3 50% reduction goal for food systems. To help the transition to a Climate-Friendly Food System, we suggest that one way to mitigate the total food system emissions is to reduce the amount of meat and dairy consumption and replace them with plant-based protein products without compromising nutritional value. In addition, to improve the accuracy and specificity of current labels, we recommend UBC lead the engagement process and the establishment of a Pacific Northwest/Canadian-specific footprint factors database by conducting research collaboratively with peer institutions. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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