Reducing the campus carbon footprint: new app will help students make sustainable food choices

Queen’s alumni partner with University to launch NetZero

The app creators are planning to partner with Queen’s Hospitality Services.

In the Queen’s University Climate Action Plan, Queen’s committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2040. The app NetZero hopes to help the University and its students achieve this goal.

NetZero is an app that will allow Queen’s students to track their carbon footprint by logging the food they purchase. They hope to partner with student-run food providers to indicate the most sustainable menu options, allowing students to make educated choices in real-time.

NetZero was started in May 2019 and developed by Queen’s students and faculty over the past year. Now, it’s set to launch in early October.

“The app is for Queen’s students by Queen’s students,” Jennifer Bunning, a graduate of Queen’s Masters of Public Administration program and CEO of NetZero, said in an interview with The Journal. “Convenience is a really big barrier for a lot of people, they want to be sustainable but don’t
know how.”

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The app’s partnerships with the University will provide a comfortable and manageable way of measuring one’s carbon footprint right at their doorstep.

For example, the app creators are planning to partner with Queen’s Hospitality Services and student-run food providers on campus to get the NetZero logo on their menus, identifying
low-carbon items.

“Right now, it will be a log of sustainable food items that you purchase,” Bunning said, adding that she hopes the app will get people in the habit of tracking and reducing their carbon.

The measurement of sustainable food and food products is done by measuring food products’ value through a life cycle analysis. The NetZero team looks at everything in the cycle of a food product, including transportation, water used to grow the crop, and packaging.

They have been working closely with Warren Mabee, associate dean and director of the School of Policy Studies, to ensure the life cycle analysis is correct.

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“We know that cost and convenience are two of the biggest barriers, and if we can educate [the students] and also reward them, then we think this is the magic that will really get people to reduce their carbon,” Bunning said, noting that the app and its website have a variety of resources that will help do both.

NetZero also aims to educate students about how they can be more sustainable.

“Education is a really big pillar of what we want to do,” Bunning said. On their website, a blog provides readers with tips about being more sustainable, as well as lists of stores and resources in Kingston where readers can shop to further reduce their carbon footprint.

While this is only the first edition of the app, the creators plan to release updates that would include incentives for students to reduce their carbon footprint.

The rewards may include redeeming the carbon saved from their food choices for a free coffee or a discount on food at one of the University’s
student-run restaurants.

“If we can incentivize Queen’s students to choose more sustainable options, we can help Queen’s reduce their footprint,” Bunning said.

However, sustainable food choices aren’t where the creators want the app development to stop.

“Eventually, we want to bring in things like transportation or even electricity.”

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