Ecofficiency in the Ivy League: Using Energy Consumption as a Metric to Evaluate the Environmental Sustainability of Yale Dining

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John Wargo
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Sustainability has become a quickly growing trend amongst food providers, increasing the demand for eco-friendly products. However, as Americans continue to consume many calories from processed foods, meats and other energy-intensive products, it is important to examine how key institutions can help guide a national shift toward sustainable food. What are the environmental, social and economic effects of a diet rich in pastries and burgers? In order to answer this question, Yale University was used as a case study. The ECo Index Ingredient and Recipe Database was created to help provide a more accurate picture of Yale Dining, using energy consumption in BTU as a metric in a life cycle analysis of each item ordered and prepared by the institution. Results indicated that dishes with many ingredients were the most energy-intensive, and that recipe and menu simplification could potentially help save money and energy in the long run. Additionally, energy used in storage could be further conserved by reducing the use of frozen and refrigerated items in place of shelf stable alternatives. Recommendations for future success include simplifying and consolidating recipes, minimizing frozen and refrigerated product purchases, and streamlining the food environment for both managers and patrons to encourage healthy and environmentally sustainable choices where possible.