This Thursday, we’re asking guests at our 500-plus locations to “Meat in the Middle” when it comes to food choices and climate change.
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While fruits and vegetables are almost all nutritious for our bodies, they are not all equally beneficial for maintaining and improving the health of the environment. Here are some suggestions for what to do about foods that are nutritious, but also have a high carbon footprint making them less healthy for the earth.
Food can be a terrific vehicle to use for educating people about complex topics, and luckily, I work for a company that has an army of chefs who enjoy just this kind of challenge. Bon Appétit was the first food service company to address food’s role in climate change, and every year around Earth Day, our chefs change their menus and explain to their diners at corporations, colleges and universities, and museums in 32 states how their every day food choices affect our planet. For Earth Day today, we’re doing something a little different. Our chefs are standing in front of guests at a cooking demonstration table, making almond-milk-fruit smoothies, cheeseless pizzas, and edamame burgers with carrot peel toppings. They’re talking about how climate change isn’t just this storm gathering way down the road, it’s here and it’s affecting some of our favorite foods.
In the United States, 40% of food goes uneaten. Just so we’re clear, that’s nearly half. Yet one in every six Americans lacks a secure supply of food. Waste is happening at every part of the supply chain: thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables are being left in the fields to rot, blemished produce are being tossed at our supermarkets, restaurants are dumping perfectly good leftovers, and consumers are letting food waste away in their refrigerators. Clearly, we have a problem.
The drought that struck the United States this year stunted growth of field corn and soy, and as a result, 2013 will be the first time in 38 years where annual beef, pork, and chicken output all decline. We need a resilient food system that can cope with a changing climate and unpredictable conditions such as this drought. How are we going to get there?
This year I went trekking in the Himalayas of Nepal. Here are a few of the things I witnessed and how the experience sometimes turned my views on our sustainability commitments on their side.
Students at the University of Redlands spend a week each semester to host fun activities that raise environmental awareness and inspire action on campus. The most recent Green Week coincided with Food Day so Bon Appétit was invited to co-host an event with a coalition of environmental organizations that focused on waste and the food system. Students and staff strung 1,050 disposable to-go boxes around Hunsaker Plaza to show people how much ends up in the landfill every day on campus and the students asked people to pledge to only use to-go boxes when actually on the go.
The idea for the event was conceived when students learned that on average 5,250 disposable to-go boxes end up in the landfill each week and approximately $25,000 is spent on those boxes each semester!