Chefs are building the Low Carbon Diet Program

Last winter, I spent months researching the Low Carbon Diet program. I read scientific journals, participated in listservs, and interviewed scientists. While I enjoyed my work then, I’m finding greater satisfaction now. Over the past month, I’ve gone to regional meetings of Bon Appetit chefs and managers to explain how food choices contribute to global warming and what we’re planning to do about it. I’ve got two more meetings to go. With an hour-long presentation, I’ve probably numbed many people, but the comments I’ve gotten afterwards are fascinating. Here are three: I never realized that fresh seafood would be more energy-intensive than frozen seafood (Portland, OR). I’ll never look at a banana the same way again (Los Angeles). I’m planning to grow all my unit’s romaine and onions on campus next year (Minneapolis).

Our primary goal in announcing a Low Carbon Diet program was to raise awareness about the connection between food choices and climate change. But we also very much wanted to create change — especially in the mix of what we buy. In the past month, I’ve learned again that there’s nothing better than giving goals and ideas to a team of very creative people and letting them "go for it."

Even though the program calls for most goals to be reached by April 2008, and some later, most have already eliminated bottled waters from abroad. One unit now gets a tropical fruit delivery once a week instead of five times. Another has changed brewing methods to reduce coffee waste by at least 10%. Most are now asking questions of suppliers that have their suppliers scrambling to find answers. Change is coming. Amazingly, it may be coming even sooner than we anticipated, because chefs are demanding it that way.

Helene S. York, Director, Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation