Bon Appétit Declares April 22 Low Carbon Diet Day
April 21, 2008
In celebration of Earth Day, Hamilton College food service provider Bon Appétit is declaring April 22 Low Carbon Diet Day for lunch. Commons and McEwen, the college's dining halls, will serve lunch foods that help illustrate key principles of how food production and consumption can help reduce climate change. Bon Appétit general manager Pat Raynard explained, "It's more about removing foods from the menu and making substitutions than using certain foods. Our challenge is to make students understand what we're doing for one meal on this day and how our food choices can have a great impact on the environment."
Bon Appétit notes that all of the energy used to grow, store, transport and process food -- an estimated one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions -- come from our food system. Some foods, such as beef and cheese, are carbon-intensive, and other foods, such as lettuce and tomatoes, can be high-carbon products when they're not in season and have to be shipped a long distance. According to the WorldWatch Institute, in the United States food typically travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles from farm to plate, as much as 25 percent farther than in 1980.
Raynard said that Bon Appétit will not be serving bananas on Low Carbon Diet Day. "We go through 200 to 300 pounds a day and that leaves a huge carbon footprint because they're shipped across the ocean." In addition Bon Appétit will not have beef or cheese on the menu. Raynard explained that the methane gas produced by cows' waste is a major contributor to global warming. The menu for the day will instead will focus on turkey, chicken and pork.
For Low Carbon Diet Day, Bon Appétit will purchase all meats and vegetables from North America, reduce the amount of beef and cheese served, eliminate air-freighted seafood and decrease purchases of tropical fruits. Reducing packaging, limiting the use of disposable containers and minimizing food waste are also part of the Low Carbon Diet. Local, seasonal foods also remain the focus of the menu. The sushi station in Commons will be closed for the day since the seafood in sushi is shipped in from distant places. Raynard however promises some tasty, low carbon substitutions with an Asian theme.
Each station in Commons and McEwen will highlight a principle of the Low Carbon Diet in addition to a low carbon food choice. "We're not trying to make people non-beef or cheese eaters but if we can reduce our usage of beef and dairy products one day a week it'll make a difference," Raynard said. He noted that Bon Appétit's goal as a company is to use 10 percent less beef, coffee and cheese in a year.
In September Bon Appétit and local farmers hosted the "Eat Local Challenge" at Hamilton, where all the food served at a campus-wide picnic came from local producers. This was another sustainability movement initiative aimed at encouraging and supporting the purchase of local products, thereby helping the local economy, providing fresher foods and reducing transportation emissions.
Bon Appétit is also introducing a Low Carbon Diet Calculator that allows you to drop menu items onto your virtual pan to see how you are contributing to climate change. Visit www.eatlowcarbondiet.org to calculate your foods' carbon impact.