Through You, Through Food

Faculty advisor: Prof. Eugene Cordero

Student Project Members:

  • Sarah Callahan
  • Wei Kie Fong
  • Kathleen Hendricks
  • Elizabeth Jalone
  • Justin Mackiewicz

It has been estimated that the production and transport of food is responsible for between 25-35% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. A campaign to reduce the food-related carbon emissions at SJSU included two parts:

  1. an analysis of the carbon footprint of a typical SJSU student
  2. a social marketing campaign designed to educate SJSU students about the connections between food and global warming.

Our analysis reveals that each SJSU student is responsible for 16,000 lb of CO2 emissions annually and that 28 percent of that is due to food consumption. If each SJSU student were to reduce their food-related emissions by only 25%, the overall campus impact would be a nearly 36 million pound reduction in emissions, the equivalent of taking 4400 cars off the road.

With nearly a third of each student's carbon emissions coming from their diet, we launched a pilot social marketing campaign Through you, through food to educate SJSU students about climate-friendly food choices. Initial surveys of 150 students at the dining commons found that very few students realized the connection between the food they eat and global warming. Then, a continuous three-week long social marketing campaign was run using various methods including print media (e.g. posters, flyers, and postcards) and face to face interactions (e.g. a tabling event at the student union and personal discussions in the dining commons).

A final survey at the dining commons showed that our social marketing campaign changed student understanding of the connection between food and global warming. This suggests that a sustained campaign to educate the SJSU community about these connections, together with a university commitment to offer more climate friendly food choices, could significantly reduce campus-related emissions. The added value of this approach is that changes to our food consumption are simple, cost effective and achievable ways to reduce emissions, with an additional health benefit that comes from eating more plant based and environmentally sustainable food.