Carbon Ratings on the Menu

A Climate Conscious Rating System

In the Fall of 2022, as part of our Dining for a Cooler Planet Initiative, UMass Dining Sustainability launched a Carbon Rating on the Menu system at all four dining commons. We are partnered with My Emissions to evaluate recipes and assign an A-E rating based on each dish’s overall carbon footprint.

The carbon impact of each dish is calculated based on a comprehensive life cycle assessment. This assessment takes into account each food’s specific journey, including where and how it’s farmed, transported, and packaged. Based on this emission calculation, each dish is then rated on a scale of A-E in which A-rated dishes have the lowest carbon footprint and E-rated dishes have the highest carbon footprint. UMass is the first university dining program to implement an A-E rating system for individual dishes.

This climate conscious Rating system empowers student and staff alike to better understand the impacts of individual food choices and acts as a mindful tool for food consumption that prioritizes sustainability and reduces the carbon footprint associated with the food industry.

A Brief History

In the Fall of 2021, we surveyed over 800 UMass student and asked how they felt about climate action and sustainability in the dining commons. The results showed a clear student incentive to reduce their personal carbon footprints which drove us to add a carbon rating to our menu Identifiers to make low carbon dining easier for students.

It is estimated that the United States food systems accounts for approximately 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Global food production accounts for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Why not turn your everyday food decisions into climate action!

This new system makes it easier to consider the carbon impact of the food in the dining commons and find routine ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your food choices. We do not expect every student to completely change what they eat; just have the information they need to reduce their carbon footprint with the food they are choosing every day.


The rating system began with featuring A-Rated dishes at Hampshire Dining Commons and Worcester Commons. In the spring of 2022, the pilot expanded to include a rating for all dishes at Hampshire Dining Commons, and in the Fall of 2022, the carbon rating system was fully launched at every Dining Common. Student can find the Carbon Ratings on the menu identifiers, the UMass Dining app, and online!

We believe that SMALL ACTS = LARGE IMPACTS, and our new menu identifiers make it easy for students and staff to consider the carbon footprint of their food choices.


Foods that are able to be able grown, prepared, sourced, processed and transported in ways that emit minimal greenhouse gas into the atmosphere are considered low-carbon foods. Some foods have a lower carbon footprint than others. Our new labels will make it easy for our customers to be aware of the carbon impact of their food choices.

Plant forward dining greatly reduces one’s carbon footprint. Reducing your intake of high-carbon foods, such as beef and lamb, and switching to less carbon intensive meats can have major impacts. Small changes make a difference. Start by knowing the carbon rating of your food choices and try out some new A-Rated dishes from our broad range of options. It’s as easy as A, B, C.

Where to Find Your Dish's Carbon Rating

Menu Identifiers in The Dining Commons

Low Carbon Heroes on the Menu

A low carbon hero is a food that may not only have a minimal impact on the greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain, but also has the potential to have a positive environmental impact.

Test your knowledge!

If you want to know more about the emissions of food and tips on making climate choices, please take this quiz.