ZeroFoodprint believes that restaurants and diners can lead the fight against climate change. And why not? Everybody eats. And most of us eat out at least some of the time.
food has a carbon footprint
Food production has a carbon footprint: from growing the food to finishing the food to transporting the food. And it is discernible. A food’s carbon footprint can be affected and measured when we look at where the food is grown, how it is grown, where it goes after it is grown. If you enjoy that melon you are eating in Oregon in December, know that it might have traveled from south of the equator to get to you. On the other hand, the lettuce in your salad could have come from a farm down the road. The melon’s carbon footprint is significantly larger than the lettuce’s.
Food preparation also has a carbon footprint. Is your lettuce washed in a constant stream of water under incandescent lights? Or is your kitchen lit with LEDs and your lettuce washed in a bath of water? If you’re eating out, these questions are even bigger and have much greater impact. Energy use, water use, waste disposal all influence the carbon footprint of a restaurant, a meal, a salad. Next time you’re out to eat, ask your server what the special fish is tonight, and also is it endangered and how was it caught?
climate affects food
As eaters, we see the effects of climate on the food we buy. Droughts, atmospheric rivers (yea, we get that in California now), freezes, pests, and so on affect both the cost and availability of food from season to season, year to year. Whether you believe in climate change or not, whether you believe we have the power to affect climate change, isn’t it prudent to do what we can to minimize our own impact? There are many who believe (myself included) it is not only prudent, but it is our responsibility to minimize the impact on our planet wherever we can.
And since (most) everyone eats (out), food seems like a good place to start.
be the change
There are many restaurants and food makers who are and have been embracing the changes that support a sustainable food system. You can eat in their restaurants, buy their products, support their causes.
Bon Appetit is an ‘onsite restaurant company’ (do not ever call them a cafeteria, seriously, they are so much better than that). Bon Appetit is a leader in onsite dining that values both social and environmental sustainability alongside culinary expertise. You can feel good about eating next time you go to a museum or ballpark fed by BAMCO folks. In addition to corporate and campus facilities, Bon Appetit is also a partner at The Commissary in the Presidio and is the brilliance behind Stem in Mission Bay. Fedele (BAMCO founder) is an old friend, so don’t mind me if this sounds a bit like a plug. It is, and it is because I believe so much in what he is doing.
Hampton Creek makes food from plants. That may not sound like much, but they make food like mayo out of plants. And their aim is to create a plant-based food revolution. Their thinking is that plants are cheaper, easier and cause less environmental damage to grow, therefore food will be cheaper and easier to obtain. Join the revolution at a store near you.
According to Extra Food, 40% of food produced is wasted and 25% of freshwater is used to produce this wasted food. In Marin County, Extra Food picks up wasted food from restaurants, corporations, grocery stores and others and delivers it to organizations in need, thus reducing the amount of food that needs to be produced. They’ve picked up and re-delivered nearly a million pounds of food…their donors are worth supporting. You know they aren’t tossing leftovers into the bin and adding to our planetary emissions.
make the change
If you are a restaurateur who wants to make the change to more sustainable food programs, there are many organizations out there who want to help.
ZeroFoodprint works with restaurants to determine and minimize their carbon footprint so that they are as efficient as possible. Then they work with the restaurant to purchase carbon credits to offset remaining emissions. There are several restaurants already in the program (3 in San Francisco!) and many more in process of achieving ZeroFoodprint.
The NRA’s Conserve Program will help you audit your restaurant for energy use, food waste, water use, recycling programs and fryer use. They will share info on everything up to and including why you should plant and harvest your own green roof. Learn about hand dryers vs. paper towels, washing dishes more efficiently and when to turn on the oven. Just another way to lessen your carbon footprint.
If you’re a restaurateur in California, the Food Service Technology Center will help you design or re-design your restaurant to be most efficient. They will work with you to choose the right equipment for your menu, choose lighting that is effective and meets code without shooting up your energy bill, save money on water. Many new restaurateurs are surprised by the huge bill they get from PGE their first month open. Fishnick knows how to minimize that surprise, allowing for a happier bottom line. And they do it all for free.
Our oceans may be vast, but they are not limitless and the way that we fish them has long lasting effects, for good or for bad. Seafood Watch’s program keeps an eye on how our oceans are fished and how fisheries are farmed, informing the rest of us about what seafood we should be buying and eating. This is yet another way to vote with your wallet. They work with both businesses and consumers to keep us informed. There’s even an app for that
You’ve gotta eat, so you might as well eat right. And by that I don’t mean eat healthy (although that’s always a good idea), I mean eat so that whatever impact you create is deliberate. If you don’t buy food trucked in from south of equator, your grocer will start selling food from the farm down the road. And if you support your local dining establishments that purchase sustainable product, they can stay in business. There’s no one right answer, but if you eat following your own conscience, you are eating right. And you can pat yourself on the back for saving the planet.
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