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Gordon Wallace is a senior in the College of Engineering.
Claire Thomas is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Dena Ciampa is a sophomore in the College of General Studies.
Anna Wysocki is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.
On February 27, we joined almost 20 other students in a protest against Aramark, Boston University’s food services provider. It was a part of a national campaign led by the Natural Resources Defense Council to pressure Aramark to adopt a more sustainable menu, and to show the company that these are issues BU students care about as their customers. After all, every day, thousands of us eat breakfast, lunch and dinner provided by the company.
Moreover, millions eat their food at cafeterias across the country — in national parks, corporate headquarters, sports stadiums and prisons. Aramark is the largest food service company based in the U.S.
As a leader in food service, Aramark should be a leader in sustainability efforts as well. The company could make a big impact by shrinking the carbon footprint of its menus. Specifically, we believe it should immediately issue a strong company-wide commitment to the public to do the following. First, reduce the carbon emissions associated with its most climate-intensive food by 20 percent. Second, increase the plant-based entrees it serves in its cafeterias to 50 percent. Third, start real cuts in its purchases of climate-intensive foods right away and report its progress toward reducing emissions to the public.
By cutting the amount of climate-intensive food it purchases, Aramark could cut the climate pollution of its menus by millions of tons.
Despite its potential for leadership, Aramark’s recently released 2025 sustainability plan, “Be Well. Do Well,” does not address the significant emissions produced by its menus, and makes no meaningful commitment to reduce climate pollution. While the plan discusses past accomplishments in waste reduction and responsible sourcing of fish, and makes a commitment to reduce the emissions of their vehicles by 10 percent, these are small gestures that can’t be properly evaluated.
The report doesn’t include any statistics about the company’s total emissions, or the extent to which their plan would reduce them. Most importantly, there are no plans to reduce emissions associated with the food on Aramark’s menus. We are deeply disappointed by this failure. Especially since, as some of Aramark’s younger customers, we will be the ones most impacted by a future filled with rising sea levels, more drought and fires caused by climate change.
The United Nations and experts around the globe have called for the world to “limit demand for greenhouse-gas intensive foods through shifts to healthier and more sustainable diets” to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Aramark hasn’t taken the lead.
Aramark’s menu relies on food that requires extensive usage of transportation, water, energy, land and fertilizer on its journey from farm to fork: livestock raised for meat and dairy. The large amount of carbon emissions farm animals produce are exacerbated by growing the feed required to keep them alive, as well as the manure and methane they generate. Cattle notoriously produce large amounts of methane, which is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.
By serving more fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains — and making even small reductions in the amount of meat and dairy we consume — Aramark can take a substantial bite out of climate pollution moving forward. Consumers play an important role in reducing emissions through their food choices, but the corporations that decide what’s on the menu across the country must do their part as well.
Only real change will save the planet for our generation.
A lot has changed in the world in the weeks since our first campaign event, but one thing hasn’t: even from a distance, students are still organizing to call on Aramark to do better on climate change. Members of the BU community understand the importance of leadership on climate. In 2017, BU made the admirable commitment to reduce campus carbon emissions to zero by 2040.
We think Aramark should follow the university’s good example and make a company-wide commitment to reducing its impact on the climate. If Aramark won’t match the school’s leadership on climate, we think BU should choose not to renew their contract with Aramark.
The Aramark pressure campaign, like everything else, is currently taking place online. If you’d like to get involved, reach out to Gordon Wallace at [email protected]