Tackling climate change through our food choices
How we eat is affecting the planet, but a handful of simple dietary choices and practices can have the same impact as switching from driving a large SUV to a more fuel-efficient sedan.
Greenhouse gases created by the food system — including production, distribution, and waste — are responsible for one-third of global emissions. At Bon Appétit, we see that as opportunity to make positive change.
In early 2007, our Low Carbon Diet (developed by our Foundation arm) was the first national program to highlight the significance of food to climate change, and we became the first company to take steps to reduce the food service sector’s contribution to the problem. We partnered with a science research team, headed by the highly respected nonprofit Ecotrust, for data gathering and number crunching. Our campaign was three-pronged:
- Develop an interactive, database-driven tool, the Low Carbon Diet Calculator, to convey the relative carbon-equivalent emissions impacts of common foods.
- Recommend menu and operational changes our teams could implement.
- Create an educational campaign for our chefs, managers, and guests to understand the issues.
As part of the Low Carbon Diet, we developed these five guiding principles for our teams and our guests (for explanations, visit our site Eat Low Carbon):
- You Bought It, You Eat It — Don’t Waste Food
- Make “Seasonal and Regional” Your Food Mantra
- Moooove Away from Beef and Cheese
- Stop Flying Fish and Fruit — Don’t Buy Air-Freighted Food
- If It’s Processed and Packaged, Skip It
In 2012, we reached our five-year commitment to reduce the company’s carbon footprint in the highest impact areas by 25 percent. We stopped buying air-freighted seafood entirely, as well as nontropical fruits and vegetables from outside North America. We reduced our use of tropical fruit by half. We shrank our beef purchases by 33 percent and cheese by 10 percent, and our food waste by one-third. These and other efforts achieved reductions of approximately 5 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent each month — and more importantly, have been incorporated into our everyday menuing and practices.