Educating guests about food’s impact on climate change
On April 22, 2008, for our first annual Low Carbon Diet Day, all Bon Appétit cafés were transformed into “low-carbon learning” venues. Although operational changes in our kitchens had started one year prior, Low Carbon Diet Day marked the beginning of our customer education campaign and the launch of our interactive website, Eat Low Carbon.
We’ve continued to celebrate Low Carbon Diet Day on or just before Earth Day every year. For this one day, each Bon Appétit café illustrates the principles of the Low Carbon Diet in its menu choices and signage. For example, beef and cheese are high-carbon foods because they come from cows, and cows emit methane gas, which is 20 to 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. So, at the grill station on Low Carbon Diet Day, we replace beef burgers with lower carbon choices such as turkey or black bean burgers, and explain the switch with signage.
By highlighting creative and great-tasting low carbon menu options on this particular day, our chefs prove to diners that eating low carbon does not mean sacrificing flavor. In fact, many “Low Carbon Diet Day specials” such as cheeseless pizzas have proven so popular, they’ve become staple menu offerings in our cafés!
In 2013, we reversed our focus. Instead of talking about how food choices affect climate change, we gave guests a taste of how climate change is affecting some favorite foods. To prepare, we commissioned a review of more than four dozen scientific papers projecting how important crops such as corn, wheat, rice, fruit, dairy, and coffee will fare in a changing climate — and what pressures they are already under from climate change. In addition to distilling the research into eye-catching educational signage and materials, we added a performance element to bring it to life. Bon Appétit chefs around the country used a cooking demonstration to discuss these global agriculture trends as well as to encourage guests to choose planet-friendlier foods.
For our seventh annual Low Carbon Diet Day, we’re dialing back the doom and gloom and asking our guests to “meat in the middle,” by swapping beef and dairy for equally flavorful but planet-friendlier options such as chicken, pork, and vegetable-based proteins.