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A Sustainable Food Commitment

The University of Bath has introduced a number of sustainable food initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of the food we eat.

Our commitment

The University recognises its social and environmental responsibility and is committed to supporting our community to make low carbons choices on campus, in line with our Climate Action Framework Principles.

Building on the decade-long work of Campus Services (Hospitality, Retail, Events and ResLife Team) to reduce the environmental impact of food provision on campus, our Sustainable Food Commitment broadens our focus from primarily waste and fair trade to a whole-system approach, re-focussing our efforts on those activities with the largest climate impacts.

We’ve taken expert advice from University of Bath academics, students, and the Climate Action Team. This has led us to focus on the five key areas detailed below which our research shows will lead to the largest immediate carbon reductions. We are committed to achieving results and have:

  • produced a detailed action plan of how we will work towards these commitments across hospitality, SU and retail.
  • established a Sustainable Food Commitment working group with representatives from Campus Services, the SU, Climate Action, Procurement, People and Planet and Sustainable Food VIP group. The group will meet quarterly to discuss the targets and review progress.
  • committed to report on the SFC annually.

Seasonal Food Focus

We will focus on food that is seasonal and locally grown.

Sourcing food locally avoids the emissions from the trucks, trains, ships, and planes used to transport it from further afield whilst focussing on foods that are in season can avoid the need to import it, and the use of large quantities of energy to grow it through artificial heating and lighting. There are trade-offs between sourcing locally and looking at where food is in season, and it can sometimes be lower carbon to use a supplier further away - for example during winter it is less carbon intensive to import tomatoes from Spain instead of growing them in the UK.  

We therefore understand it can’t be one rule for every supplier or food item, and we will consider the end-to-end carbon emissions of the produce we use.

The University of Cambridge Catering Service lowered its land footprint by over a quarter and its carbon footprint by over one-third – while simultaneously increasing sales and profit though making similar changes (4).

Sustainably Sourced Fish

In our Hospitality outlets, we will only procure fish caught using sustainable stocks, as identified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that 31% of monitored fish stocks are already being over-exploited, while another 50% are fully exploited (2).

Reducing food waste

We will undertake further work on ordering, storing, pricing, portion size, measurement and monitoring, Munch Box, and communications to reduce food waste further.

Around one third of food in the world is wasted every year, most often at the end of the supply chain, driven by excessive portion sizes, and wasteful sales practices (3).

Minimising packaging

We will make sure we only use packaging where it is needed, focusing first on minimising packaging and then prioritising plastic reduction.

Packaging plays an important role in protecting food as it moves through the supply chain, helping to reduce food waste and its climate impact, but it also has negative environmental impacts.

It is estimated that 2025 million takeaway containers are used every year in the EU, and recycling half of these could save the equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions generated annually by 55,000 cars (5).

Reducing meat consumption

We aim to reduce the offering of meat, in particular ruminant meat, on campus.

Reducing meat consumption is by far the single largest action we can take to reduce our carbon footprint. Non-ruminant meats emit 85% less GHG’s and use 60% less water and 85% less farmland. This increases to 95%, 85%, and 95% respectively when removing meat altogether (1).

Scope of the Sustainable Food Commitment

  • This commitment applies to the University of Bath’s hospitality, retail and SU outlets on campus.

  • The policy does not apply to individual departments, societies, activities, and events. (though we would hope all areas of the University will work towards considering how they can support these goals, and we can support them in this)

We recognise that it is a journey to deliver on these commitments and that different areas in the University will make progress at different speeds. We will focus first on those areas where we have greatest influence/control and be transparent about the actions we are taking. Future plans will look at how we can support other areas of the University to work towards the Sustainable Food Commitment.

Our community have told us they are already embracing sustainable food choices.

In 2021 we introduced an annual Climate Action survey to understand the views of our community and the finding from this survey informed the approach we have taken in the SFC. You can find out more about what our community told us in our blog on diet, which also explores some of the complexity behind the emissions associated with beef and lamb, and the extent to which our community are already embracing sustainable food choices.

(1). University of Cambridge #No Beef Change Pack (2). UN FAO General situation of World's fish stocks (3). UNEP Think Eat Save article (4). (5).