A student eating a meal in an NYU dining hall

Most years, NYU’s dining halls serve over 6 million meals. That means that the University has a substantial environmental footprint—and its choices can have a big impact. As part of its commitment to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030, NYU has joined 30 other organizations in taking the Cool Food Pledge. This public promise to fight climate change means more vegan and vegetarian options at over 20 NYU-run dining facilities. Additionally, the University will introduce new educational programs to teach students to make delicious, plant-based, and planet-friendly meals themselves.

“We are so excited to be featuring around 100 new vegan items on the menu starting in Fall 2021,” says Monalisa Prasad, Director of Sustainability, NYU Eats. “Absolutely everyone entering an NYU Eats dining location will be part of the movement. They’ll be part of a growing group of people who are striving towards a climate-friendly future and lifestyle.”

NYU Goes Greener

NYU offers 18 programs and degrees in sustainability-related fields and over 600 courses on sustainability topics. Across campus, the University has reduced energy consumption significantly, achieving over 2 million square feet of LEED certified building space. Now, we’re also shifting towards more sustainable, local food products. Because a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, changing our eating habits is an easy way to make a big difference. “It’s very clear that we all need to take a stand and actively work to reach carbon neutrality. And the sooner we do it, the better,” says Aleyna Dogan, Gallatin 2021. “People’s eating habits are more prone to change when first starting college. Through the Cool Food Pledge, NYU will introduce thousands of students to plant-based foods.”

Generally, plant-based foods have a much lower environmental impact. NYU’s dining halls already follow the Eat-Lancet and Menus of Change frameworks, with certification from the Green Restaurant Association. By committing to the Cool Food Pledge, they’ll focus on building public awareness by improving plant-based and vegetarian options. For example, dining facilities will offer Beyond or vegan burgers, vegan desserts, and milk alternatives. And while the initiative focuses on local products, it spans borders: both NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai have taken the Cool Food Pledge as well.

A collage: 1) Various vegetables, 2) Community Agriculture Club members working together in a small garden.
A Global Effort Starts Here

NYU students are deeply invested in the sustainable food movement. For instance, there are many sustainability-related clubs that support the Cool Food Pledge’s priorities. NYU student groups centered around food and sustainability include the Animal Welfare Collective (AWC), Community Agriculture Project, and Two Birds One Stone. “One of the main things we’ve been focusing on in AWC is the fact that animal welfare goes beyond just animal welfare. People forget that everything is interconnected when it comes to our world,” explains Alice Rosenthal, Gallatin 2023 and AWC President. “Above all, we want to bring a more intersectional perspective to our group. Introducing healthy, tasty options across campus is a big step in making going vegan and animal rights more accessible.”

And while it can be challenging to get involved in our remote world, there are plenty of changes you can make right now. Try your hand at some tasty plant-based dinners in the weeks ahead. Switch out your chicken wings for veggie nuggets. Plus, check out our suggestions for ways to go greener from home here.