We’ve moooved away from beef and cheese,
now we’re going against the flow — of water and energy!
Palo Alto, CA, April 10, 2012 – From the Getty Center in Los Angeles to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, diners at Bon Appétit Management Company cafés around the nation will notice quite a few menu changes on Thursday, April 19, Bon Appétit’s fifth annual Low Carbon Diet Day. At the grill, for example, they might see black-bean or turkey patties instead of beef burgers, because legumes or poultry emit far fewer greenhouse gases than do cows and other ruminant animals. They’ll find an even bigger-than-usual bounty of regional food, which guzzled less fossil fuel on its way from field to plate. Signage for Bon Appétit’s “Top 5 Low Carbon Diet Tips” will explain how diners’ choices affect climate change.
Responsible food sourcing is just part of Bon Appétit’s ongoing Low Carbon Diet strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from our food service operations. Go behind the kitchen doors, and you’ll find a lot more than lightbulb swapping under way to meet our goal of reducing our energy and water usage by 25%.
What does this have to do with climate change? In most parts of the United States, commercial kitchen equipment and lighting is powered primarily by fossil fuel energy. Burning fossil fuels emits carbon dioxide, which is the most common greenhouse gas that contributes to the warming of the earth’s atmosphere. Fossil fuels also typically power the transportation of water into our kitchens — and its conversion into ice — so water usage also generates emissions. Overuse of water is increasingly becoming a problem of its own as well, as areas experience drought, early climate-change effects, and competition for water resources.
In 2009, Bon Appétit worked with the Food Service Technology Center, a research facility dedicated to testing the energy performance of commercial kitchen equipment, to develop a proprietary tool with which our accounts could calculate their energy and water usages. From these hundreds of entries, we established a baseline. Last year we released 23 detailed recommendations to our teams around the country — covering everything from settings on specific commercial cooking equipment to emergency-exit lighting — that would not only help them reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but save thousands of dollars.
For example, the Bon Appétit café at the Minnesota History Center consumed an estimated 912,000 gallons of water and 15,260 therms annually. Simply by replacing four pre-rinse spray valves in the dishwashing room with low-flow models — a $50-per-nozzle swap — the café should save 144,000 gallons of water and a lot of energy every year. Inspired by the café’s conservation efforts, the Center undertook a $3.5 million overhaul of its heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system that is on track to reduce its heating and cooling bills by $1 million annually.
Elsewhere, other Bon Appétit accounts are taking a hard look at other water hogs such as “dipper wells,” whirlpools of water for keeping serving utensils clean. If left on all the time, dipper wells can consume up to 262,600 gallons of fresh water per year! Replacing them with spray faucets or simply reducing the flow can save thousands of gallons. Similar savings can be had from changing steamer settings, investing in high-efficiency pots with waffled bottoms, inventorying lighting, and more.
“As important as all these efforts are — and we are proud of having significantly reduced our water and electricity usage — food matters more. The emissions from the energy side are still outweighed by the amount of beef and cheese our diners consume,” said Helene York, Bon Appétit’s director of strategic sourcing and research, who helped launch the Low Carbon Diet in 2007. “But we wholeheartedly embrace the challenge to keep enticing more of our guests to swap their beef for bulgur patties.”
Companywide, Bon Appétit has reduced its emissions by the equivalent of 4 million pounds of carbon dioxide per month since the program began.
About Bon Appétit Management Company
Bon Appétit Management Company (www.bamco.com) is an on-site restaurant company offering full food-service management to corporations, universities, and specialty venues. Based in Palo Alto, CA, Bon Appétit has more than 400 cafés in 31 states, including eBay, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Getty Center. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs addressing local purchasing, the overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, the connection between food and climate change, humanely raised meat and eggs, and most recently, farmworker welfare. The company has received numerous awards for its work from organizations including the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the James Beard Foundation, Chefs Collaborative, Natural Resources Defense Council, Seafood Choices Alliance, The Humane Society of the United States, and Food Alliance.