Harvard University recently became the latest signatory of the Cool Food Pledge (CFP)—an initiative that focuses on promoting plant-based foods with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030. “Addressing the emissions associated with our food choices is a focal part of Harvard’s holistic approach to using our campus as a testbed to address climate change and sustainability,” Harvard Executive Vice President Katie Lapp told university news outlet The Harvard Gazette. “This pledge gives us a common science-based collective target and a way of learning together with institutions around the world as we strive to create a more sustainable food system.”

Several students have taken initiatives to educate classmates about the environmental benefits of eating a plant-based diet, including Meaghan Townsend who created a plant-based eating guide informed by student interviews about eating more sustainably. “College students who will be living through the next several decades with whatever climate change looks like have a vested interest in building the best future for themselves, and I think plant-based eating is actually one of the most effective, easy, and rewarding ways to do that,” Townsend said. On-campus cafeterias and eateries have followed suit by offering and developing additional plant-based options to help the school uphold its part of the CFP. Harvard aims to implement a variety of programs that will help achieve its 2030 goal.

“Among the many changes we need to make, including a rapid shift to green energy, is a change in diet to a more plant-based way of eating,” Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said. “If we do this right, such changes will also lead to improvements in health and many other aspects of our environment. The actions of every individual are important, but because Harvard intends to be a leadership institution and educates people who will be leaders, steps such as the Cool Food Pledge can be particularly impactful.”

CFP was created last year by a cooperative of environmental groups, including World Resources Institute (WRI) and UN Environment, and counted ten founding signatories that collectively serve 60 million meals annually at their dining facilities. In addition to Harvard, signatories currently include global financial institute World Bank, co-working company WeWork, furniture retailer IKEA, the University of Pittsburgh, UCLA Health, and the City of Ghent in Belgium, amongst others.

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