Low Carbon Diet Day at SAP Labs in Palo Alto

April 23, 2008

The carbon footprint of the food you eat

One guy stormed out of Cafe D at SAP Labs in Palo Alto, empty-handed and half-jesting that he was going to McDonald’s instead. And one woman threw away two slices of bread on her plate and high-tailed it out of there, after realizing there was no cheese to be had at the make-your-own panini station.

But other than that, Melissa Miller, executive chef of the three cafes at the Palo Alto offices of the world’s leading business software provider, couldn’t have been happier with the reaction to Tuesday’s “Low Carbon Diet Day.” The event was held in 400 cafes in 28 states that are operated by Palo Alto’s Bon Appetit Management Company. It’s all part of the company’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food service operations, and to educate its employees and customers about the role food production plays in climate change.

 Because SAP’s cafes already feature sustainable seafood entrees, vegan options, and proteins mostly from North America, Miller didn’t have to alter her offerings that much to meet Tuesday’s challenge. Still, it meant no beef and no cheese that day, because cows are said to produce methane gas emissions that are more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat against the Earth.

Executive Chef Melissa Miller serves up pho made with chicken instead of beef

So there was herb-and-yogurt dressing rather than the usual blue cheese one at the salad bar; an Asian pork burger with Thai mayo instead of the regular beef one at the grill station; bowls of chicken pho rather than the typical, traditional beef rendition; marinated tempeh and tofu, and an artichoke frittata standing in for slices of roast beef at the sandwich station; and housemade potato chips in self-serve jars instead of individual mass-produced bagged ones.

 No more individual bags of chips

There also was a striking “Tower of Shame” prominently on display in the cafe — 120 take-out containers (1 per day for six months) piled up to show just how much waste we create simply by getting lunch to-go regularly.

Half a year's take-out containers accumulated from getting one lunch to go daily for six months

The three cafes serve about 950 people a day for breakfast and lunch. Employees received an email a week ago, telling them that on April 22, Earth Day, the food might be a little different.

“It didn’t bother me that there was no beef or cheese,” said Michael Zahm, vice president of business development for SAP education, who was enjoying grilled chicken. “I like it when they hold special days like this because you can’t help but learn something as you stand in line for your food.  It’s good to make the connections about food, because once you know them, you can make a difference.”

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


Dining That Takes A Bite Out of Global Warming

April 16, 2008

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.


Trevese Restaurant Garners Green Glory

April 15, 2008

The Green Restaurant Association has bestowed a “Certified Green Restaurant” badge of distinction on Trevese in downtown Los Gatos. It is the first restaurant in the Bay Area to be so honored.

Housed in a landmark Queen Anne-style Victorian, the restaurant features locally grown, sustainable, and organic ingredients. It serves shade-grown and organic coffee.

Additionally, the restaurant recycles all glass, cardboard, grease, metal, plastic and paper. Food waste is composted. Low-flow faucet aerators have been installed throughout the building to reduce water consumption and energy use. Low-flow spray valves in the kitchen save upwards of 135,000 gallons of water a year alone. The bathrooms are stocked with 100 percent recycled and chlorine-free tissue, as well as recycled multi-fold towels.

Trevese plans to implement more environmental steps each year, according to Chef-Owner Michael Miller.

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