Universities
Students are Committed to Combating Climate Change—Here are a Few Ways to Lead the Effort
Leila Costa
Leila Costa
Director of Sustainability for Sodexo Universities

Young people like Greta Thunberg and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Young Leaders are inspiring more young people to engage in the groundswell of climate activism. Their passion is not surprising. They are, after all, the ones who will be most impacted by the social, economic, and physical effects of climate change in the coming decades. It makes sense that climate change has become an important issue for college students, who often expect it to be a top priority for their campus and even cite it as a factor influencing their college selection decisions.

As I read the first chapter of Sodexo’s 2019/2020 President to President thought leadership series, “Educating the Environmental Stewards of Tomorrow: Presidential Leadership and Climate Change,” I recognized many of the things I see every day on Sodexo’s partner campuses. Author Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D., President of California State University, Northridge (CSUN), notes that the movement for action in this area is particularly strong among youth and Gen Z students. They expect their institutions to be socially responsible, particularly in the area of sustainability, as a matter of course, and they are often leading campuses’ efforts.

Sodexo is committed to leading these sustainability solutions right alongside students at our partner sites in North America and around the world. A few recent examples reflect the latest trends in dining and address consumers’ growing expectations regarding—and desire for—sustainable practices and products.

Plant-Based Dining

Consumers increasingly seek plant-based dishes for both their health and environmental benefits. A 2019 Technomic, Inc. report found that 25% of U.S. students choose a plant-forward diet. Sodexo meets that demand with diverse plant-based menu options and innovative partnerships. One example is the new Impossible Burger, a plant-based meatless beef alternative, which we introduced to more than 1,500 partner sites this August.

Lighting and Equipment Retrofits

Replacing outdated lighting and other high-efficiency retrofits reduce energy consumption, lowering carbon emissions and even cutting costs for our partners. For example, at University of New Orleans, our facilities management team recently upgraded more than 22,000 LED bulbs and installed new HVAC controls. These efforts enhanced the campus environment and

saved more than 2.8 million kilowatt hours of energy, earning the campus a $250,000 rebate as well as recognition as one of the top reducers of energy consumption in Louisiana for the year.

Food Waste Prevention

Decomposing food waste substantially contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. WasteWatch powered by Lean Path (WWxLP) is a data-driven food waste prevention system that identifies the root causes of food waste. It enables onsite teams to make informed operational and behavioral changes that prevent food waste, leading to reduced purchasing costs and more sustainable operations. Around 200 Sodexo partner campuses will implement WWxLP this fall.

While huge challenges remain, Sodexo will continue doing our part as we strive to improve Quality of Life. In Universities, everything we do is focused on providing innovative solutions that meet both the local and global community’s needs and enhance the overall college experience as students prepare for their futures.