How we're reducing the carbon intensity of food

October 3, 2022 Providence News Team


In this article:

  • Focusing on the carbon footprint of food is one way Providence is advancing toward the goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030.

  • Hospital food services have an important role to play in the health care industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

  •  By the end of 2022, at least 12 hospitals across the Providence network will be working to meet the goals of the Cool Food Pledge and shift toward more plant-based meals.

With more than 120,000 caregivers across seven states, at Providence, our carbon footprint impacts millions of lives. That’s why in April 2020, we pledged to divert more than 50% of waste from landfill and hazardous streams and become carbon negative by 2030. 

To achieve this bold goal, we’ve adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach and active participation in the best practices of environmental stewardship across all levels of our organization. We believe we can succeed if we remain focused on our vision of health for a better world while providing our workforce with ways to unite their collective expertise in our shared values of compassion, dignity, justice, excellence, and integrity.

Why focus on food?

The agriculture and food service industries have a significant impact on the environmental health of our planet. About 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production. This is due to the energy intensity of farming, processing, transporting, cooking and disposing of food and the methane produced by livestock. We cannot meet global climate targets without addressing the carbon footprint of our food system. 

In the United States, health care contributes to 8.5% of the greenhouse gasses emitted every year. We use enormous amounts of supplies and materials and create millions of pounds of waste. And our industry serves millions of meals to patients, visitors, and employees that also contribute to these emissions and waste.

How Providence is making a difference

We created our food and nutrition-related environmental stewardship goals to give us actionable ways of advancing toward our long-term goal of carbon negativity. They include:

  • Decreasing the carbon intensity of meals. This can be achieved with a shift towards plant-forward meals, decreasing our purchases of beef and other animal products, and increasing our energy and water efficiency across our food services. 
  • Decreasing food-related waste. We can reduce the amount of food waste we send to landfills and the amount of waste we create from food packaging and serving ware.
  • Serving fresh, low-chemical healthy foods and beverages in our facilities. We will increase the percentage of local and sustainable foods purchased.

To meet these goals, we need to reduce carbon emissions and waste while increasing efficiency in all aspects of our operations, including our food and nutrition purchasing and processes. This includes working with our food services partners to use advanced systems for weighing food products, measuring waste, and continually identifying opportunities for process improvement. We’ve also aligned with our food service provider’s goal of ensuring that at least 35% of all food and beverages served in our facilities is sustainably sourced.

The Cool Food Pledge

An initiative of the World Resource Institute, United Nations Environment Programme, Climate Focus, Healthcare Without Harm, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Practice Greenhealth, EAT, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the Cool Food Pledge challenges food providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030. Cool Food is helping organizations, including hospitals, reduce the climate impact of the food they serve by incorporating more plant-rich foods while still giving diners the types of meals they want.

By the end of 2022, at least twelve Providence hospitals will be working to meet the goals of the Cool Food Pledge:


  • Providence St. Patrick Hospital


  • Providence Medford Medical Center
  • Providence Milwaukie Hospital
  • Providence Newberg Medical Center
  • Providence Portland Medical Center
  • Providence St. Vincent Medical Center

Washington State

  • Kadlec Regional Medical Center
  • Providence Holy Family Hospital
  • Providence Regional Medical Center Colby
  • Providence Regional Medical Center Everett Pacific
  • Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center
  • Providence St. Peter Hospital

By signing the Cool Food Pledge, Providence has joined an international cross-sector coalition that includes the City of New York, IKEA, Harvard University, and 64 health care organizations committed to reducing their climate impact from food.

Want to reduce your carbon footprint? 

Food is a great place to start if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. Look for ways you can begin to incorporate sustainable habits into your grocery shopping and meal prepping routines like:

  • Avoiding plastic and disposable serving ware and utensils
  • Being mindful about how much water you use for cooking and cleaning
  • Bringing your own bags to the grocery store
  • Buying in bulk to avoid packaging
  • Buying local and in-season products
  • Composting and recycling to cut down on garbage
  • Eating more plant-based foods
  • Using energy-efficient kitchen appliances

We are called to act on climate change

 At Providence, we are committed to the ambitious goal we set to become carbon negative by 2030, and we know we will not get there alone. When you visit our facilities, you will see transformations in our processes and operations, from facility management to patient care. This is what we must do to reduce our carbon emissions and improve health outcomes in our communities and around the world.

You can learn more about environmental stewardship at Providence by visiting our blog.

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Related resources

 Practice Greenhealth awards 29 Providence hospitals

A recap of the first Providence Environmental Stewardship report

5 ways to protect your health during a climate crisis


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence News Team brings you the updates to keep you informed about what's happening across the organizational ecosystem. From partnerships to new doctor announcements, we are committed to keeping you informed.

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