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School of Engineering

Graduate student awarded for sustainability

Tuesday, December 15, 2020
MS student Emelyn Chiang and colleagues received a Campus Sustainability Achievement Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
MS student Emelyn Chiang

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has recognized Emelyn Chiang and Smith College collaborators as winners of a 2020 Campus Sustainability Research Award. The award honors students and “higher education institutions for the successful implementation of projects that significantly advance sustainability.” Chiang is currently pursuing a master’s degree within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts.

Chiang and team’s proposal, “Reducing Smith College’s Dining GHG emissions: An analysis of beef and milk substitutions,” examines purchasing practices at Smith Dining Services and quantifies the environmental and financial impact of replacing beef and milk products with environmentally conscious alternatives.

The researchers discovered that substituting turkey, tofu, or black beans for beef would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3,621-4,022 metric tons CO2 equivalent and would reduce the college’s costs by $17-33 per ton. They also found that plant-based milk substitutes would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 148-185 metric tons CO2 equivalent, but increase costs by $142-665 per ton. The team modeled a financial pathway for Smith College to transition to these sustainable options by first substituting a portion of beef purchasing, and then switching over to the more expensive milk product substitutes.

The group’s work provides a framework for Smith Dining to investigate future greenhouse gas emission and cost reduction scenarios. Upcoming initiatives at Smith College may examine how to reduce produce emissions and ways to better inform the student population about dining-related emissions.