Dining That Takes A Bite Out of Global Warming

Yahoo!  , Oracle, eBay, and Cisco Systems have all left giant imprints on the tech world.

But on April 22, these monster corporations will take deliberate steps to shrink their footprints — their carbon ones, to be precise. On that day, which is appropriately enough Earth Day, chefs at these corporate cafes and others around the country that are all overseen by Bon Appetit Management Company, will serve low carbon meals to educate diners about the role food plays in climate change.

Of all the activities done by humans, studies have found that food and all the energy it takes to make it is one of the largest contributors to global warming. One third of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food production, processing, transportation, packaging, preparation, and waste.

All in all, 400 cafes in 28 states will take up the challenge. They include those at DreamWorks, the de Young Museum, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That translates into reducing the use of imported foods such as rice and bananas. It also means cutting out beef, and even much of the cheese normally served. After all, cows (whether raised for dairy or for meat) emit a huge amount of — errr — methane gas, to be polite.  And that gas is said to be even more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat against the Earth.

 On “Low Carbon Diet Day,” diners will see more turkey burgers, portobello burgers, pizza with white bean sauce, salad bars stocked with veggies only from North America, and agua frescas made from regionally grown fruit (tropical ones are definite no-no’s). Every food station in each cafe will have to offer one low-carbon meal option and post a sign explaining the principles involved.

If you can’t make it to one of the public cafes that day or aren’t lucky enough to get a coveted invitation to dine at one of the private Silicon Valley tech cafeterias, there’s another way you can learn more about the carbon footprint of food. Just click here to find a calculator that will compute the total carbon emissions of your average breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You might never look at that plate of bacon and eggs quite the same way again.

Food Gal has moved. Please visit her at www.foodgal.com.

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9 Responses to Dining That Takes A Bite Out of Global Warming

  1. […] – Lots of Silicon Valley cafeterias are going low carbon for Earth Day. [Food Gal] […]

  2. Cathy says:

    Anybody can walk into any of Oracle’s cafes in Redwood Shores except the one in the 500 building.

  3. foodgal says:

    Oooh, thank you for that great bit of info, Cathy! I was invited to dine at a couple of the Oracle cafes a year or so ago, and the quality of the food _ not to mention the handmade chocolates _ was incredible.

  4. Marni says:

    My mom is much better than I am about all these “golden rules” of eating for a better earth. She even joined a CSA. But I’m slowly moving in the same direction. I eat much less meat than I used to, and I now almost exclusively eat fruits that are in season, so that I don’t have to buy imported. That was an especially hard change, because it would be December and I could fill my grapes craving…if I let Chile feed me… Now I let the U.S. feed me, and we’re all better for it! Such an interesting topic!!!

  5. Caitlin Williams says:

    As a beef producer, we work daily for our environment to help deliver nutritious, tasty beef to our consumers. Everyday is earth day for us, whether it is moving our cattle to new pastures in our conservation method of pasture rotation or ensuring that all our water tanks are working properly to help use less water, the environment is our main concern. We work everyday to ensure that we are leaving the smallest footprint possible in the environment. I also must remind you that cutting beef out of your daily diet may have a negative impact on your body and health. A small 3 oz serving of lean beef contributes to over 50 % of your protein requirements ( which keep in mind you cannot find elsewhere) while also providing your body with essential b-vitamins 6 and 12, tons of iron and much more all wrapped up in low fat package. Now tell me what other food has that to offer! We as beef producers whether we are producing dairy or meat animals are aware of the environment, for us everyday IS earthday!

  6. One comment that really caught my attention in you article is when you stated that “One third of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food production, processing, transportation, packaging, preparation, and waste.” The reality is that the production of food animals actually only contribute to 2.24% of all greenhouse gas emissions while it is fossil fuels that contribute to 79.2% of all greenhouse gasses. I’ve lived on a ranch all my life and I’ve also visited my fair share of cities. To be honest, I can breath easier and see a possitive impact on our environment from the land that our cattle graze rather than the concrete sidewalks of any city. No one cares more the land that our animals live on that those who share that land with them. For more information about what beef producers are doing to conserve our natural resources, please visit beeffrompasturetoplate.org

  7. foodgal says:

    Hi Leticia:
    It’s true that food animal production accounts for only some of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by food production. But food production as a whole does result in a large carbon footprint when you also take into consideration how much of our food these days is grown thousands of miles away and then trucked in, flown in, or shipped in for our consumption. Doing away with all of that is not the answer, especially when many areas of the country, because of weather or topography, could not ever support themselves solely on what they raise only locally. But I do think it’s good to be aware of where things come from and the true cost of them so that we can make more informed choices, if we so choose.

  8. Jennifer Rassler says:

    I also disagree with your recommendation regarding meat. I grew up on a dairy farm, and we take great measures to improve the air, water and soil on our farm. I believe that limiting meat is not the answer to preserving our environment. Total methane emissions account for only 7.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, and methane emissions from cattle only account for 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. I believe that finding an alternative for fossil fuels, which contribute almost 80% of greenhouse gas emissions is a much more effective way of limiting air pollution.

  9. islandboy says:

    foodgal, looks like you’ve met the wrath of the beef nation. There’s no doubt that pound for pound, beef is one of the least carbon efficient foods to produce, especially the way Big Beef does it. Now, every time somebody says “beef is bad, mmkay,” somebody from a ranch will say, “well, our cows are grassfed and consumed locally.” Well, they are not talking about the same thing, right? Cows that are raised on feed from other states or even other countries, then slaughtered and processed in yet another state, then sold and consumed in yet another state, is not exactly the same thing as a cow that’s raised on grass at the ranch and consumed by the ranchers.

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