Cleaning the carbon footprints

To highlight the connection between food and climate change, Bon Appétit, St. Joe's food vendor, is introducing a Low Carbon Diet Program. According to Stuart Leckie, Bon Appétit's manager on campus, one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy used to grow, store, transport and process food. He says the program focuses on decreasing the distance food travels to get here and partnering with farms that use sustainable practices.

"It involves more work to buy locally and more time to research the products and businesses ourselves," says Leckie. "But we want to go the extra mile to make it work." Bon Appétit already deals exclusively with sustainable businesses for eggs, beef, dairy products, chicken, bottled water and many vegetables.

Most changes resulting from the low carbon diet program will show up in where food comes from, in menu choices and in portion sizes. The majority of dishes will feature chicken or pork instead of beef, because methane from cows is a large contributor to global warming - making beef and dairy products "high carbon." Chefs will cut sandwiches in half so diners can choose how much they take, thereby reducing food waste, which is a major focus of the plan. On Earth Day, which is April 22 and the program's launch date, Bon Appétit plans to over-exaggerate the changes so they have an effect on diners. Bon Appétit has termed it "Low Carbon Diet Day" and will offer a completely low-carbon café menu with choices such as turkey burgers, cheese-less pizza, and local fruits and vegetables.

By April 2009, the campus program plans to:

  • reduce the amount of beef purchased by 25 percent
  • reduce consumption of processed sweets, snacks, and chocolate by 10 percent
  • reduce the total usage of packing by 10 percent
  • eliminate air-freighted seafood purchases

By April 2010, the plan hopes to reduce food waste by 25 percent and reduce energy and water usage by 20 percent. Educational materials and a personal online calculator to tally your meal's carbon score are available at www.eatlowcarbon.org. More information about Bon Appétit's program is available at: www.circleofresponsibility.com