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UMass offers way for students to understand carbon impact of dining hall meals

The new rating system for dining hall options at UMass Amherst grades food choices. (Courtesy UMass Amherst)
The new rating system for dining hall options at UMass Amherst grades food choices. (Courtesy UMass Amherst)

UMass Amherst is rolling out a new system in its dining halls to inform students about the carbon impact of different menu items.

The system rates items from A to E. For example, a salad or a pasta dish with vegetables earns an A.

Kathy Wicks, the director of sustainability for the campus dining service, said a hamburger would get rated much lower.

"Beef has the highest impact just because of the way the land is used especially in industrial beef production and their feed and the methane released by the cows themselves," she said.

Wicks said where an item comes from can impact its rating.

"We have chicken that's coming from Sunderland and that will get a different rating than a chicken maybe from Maryland," she said.

The move by UMass comes after a survey found most students believe it's important to reduce their carbon footprints, and that their food choices impact the environment.

The ratings are currently available in one dining hall, with plans to expand to all four dining halls this fall.

This story is part of the New England News Collaborative. It was originally published by New England Public Media

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