Reducing climate change through food choices
Global warming has become front-page news as scientists, policymakers and ordinary citizens debate what can be done to reduce its harmful effects. Remarkably, the connection between food and climate change is rarely discussed, even though research shows that agriculture and the food system overall is responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and dietary choices can equal the difference between driving an efficient sedan versus a large SUV. Bon Appétit Management Company is changing the national conversation and encouraging our chefs and guests to think about how their food choices could help reduce climate change.
After reviewing scientific literature and analyzing the supply chain for certain foods, we designed the Low Carbon Diet program. Our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions created by the highest impact areas of our business by 25%. To achieve this, we have given our staff and guests meaningful tools to evaluate the global warming potential of different food choices.
The Low Carbon Diet is a three-year project involving:
- Bringing the issue of the food system’s impact on climate change to national prominence
- Sourcing nearly all of our fruits, vegetables, meats, and water from North America
- Providing science-based educational materials so our guests can make “lower carbon” food choices
- Reducing food waste and innovating creative options for used frying oil and compostable vegetable matter
- Auditing the energy and water efficiency of our kitchen equipment
- Hosting an annual Low Carbon Diet Day to create awareness and spur our guests to make change
With the Low Carbon Diet, we are taking responsibility for the connection between food and global warming.
Low-Carbon Diet at Oberlin
Oberlin College has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2025. Part of our carbon footprint comes from food sourcing, preparation, and disposal. We are always considering ways to minimize these effects and make our food system more environmentally friendly.
CDS staff and Oberlin College students have identified multiple areas of concern:
Providing Information at Dining Halls
Menu labels in our dining halls highlight low-carbon food options. Guests who want to reduce their own carbon footprint can follow these guides to choose alternatives to high-carbon foods. For eaxmple, for diners who accept that beef is high-carbon but still want to eat the occasional burger, the Low Carbon Diet will demonstrate how to make it more eco-friendly: skip the cheese, the bacon and swap out of season lettuce and tomato for a tasty lower carbon alternative like grilled onions.
- We recognize that recycling glass, plastic, paper and metal reduces the energy and raw materials needed to produce brand new resources and decreases the amount of waste for disposal. We recognize collecting, transporting and processing have their own costs, but we will continue to recycle until a better solution is found.
- We request the least amount of packaging from our vendors. Vendors are able to reuse crates and other packaging when delivering to CDS.
- At the DeCafé, fabric tote bags, mugs and reusable bottles are available for those interested in creating less waste.
Kitchen Scraps and Food Waste Audit
- The food system is not environmentally benign. Distributed among all its component parts, the food system represents one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. We are all responsible for finding new ways to decrease waste.
- Beginning January, 2009 we have conducted daily audits in all CDS kitchens of all kitchen scrap amounts. We are mining the data to determine why kitchen scrap amounts have not decreased.
- Beginning February, 2009 we have conducted food waste audits, Monday - Friday during lunch in Stevenson. During our pilot week, we found that 105 pounds of food were wasted. Three weeks later, an average of 62 pounds of food was returned to the dish room, or a 59% decrease in food waste.