UBC Undergraduate Research

Climate-Friendly Food Systems (CFFS) Labelling Project : An Evaluation Framework for the Operationalization of UBC Vancouver’s Climate-Friendly Food Label Huang, Silvia


How to make your daily menu choices climate-friendly? Roughly 26% of global total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by human activities were contributed by the food supply chain (Poore & Newecek, 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 the University of British Columbia (UBC) takes action to provide students with the climate impact information of menu items they purchase every day that could help to educate, bring awareness and influence their purchasing behavior in a more climate-friendly way. This research report was prepared by the CFFS data analyst, a member of the CFFS Action Team and the CFFS Labelling Project Research Group. This report is focused on the data analysis and back-end implementation of the CFFS labelling project and is complementary to the report on the communication and definition side prepared by the CFFS communication and engagement coordinator. The CFFS labelling project is part of the actions taken by UBC in response to the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2030 scope 3 emission reduction goal. The CFFS Action Team was formed to accelerate transitions towards a climate-friendly food system and advance the UBC Food System Project mission and priorities. This project aims to evaluate the climate impact of menu items sold at UBC Food Services (UBCFS) venues and operationalize the CFFS food label to inform climate-friendly menu choices. The goal of this project includes creating a reproducible data analysis framework for calculating recipes’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, establishing a food GHG emission baseline at the UBC Vancouver campus, determining cut-offs for the CFFS traffic-light label, and further integrating additional CFFS attributes into the framework for expanded impact. 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. The data on GHG emission factors came from external secondary data sources. The main deliverable of the project is the external framework that conducts the evaluation process of recipes automatically once GHG emission factors have been assigned to each ingredient, and it will be further developed to incorporate additional attributes and adapt to the expansion of the CFFS label. The external framework is able to read the primary data automatically and output the total GHG emissions 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 reduction goals for food systems. For the initial pilot phase of the label implementation, we determined separate sets of cut-offs for different meal groups (i.e., lunch/dinner, breakfast, desserts/snacks) due to the incomparability between products from different meal groups. 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 GHGe 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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