Zero Foodprint emerged from a simple question:
Is dining out terrible for the environment?
The answer came in the form of a study, published in Lucky Peach magazine, in which we compared the carbon emissions of three meals: a dinner at Prime Meats in Brooklyn, the tasting menu at noma in Copenhagen, and a home-cooked meal. What we discovered was that restaurant meals and home-cooked meals are surprisingly close in terms of carbon emissions, with the bulk (60–70 percent) coming from the ingredients. Deliveries, energy, waste, and laundry were relatively small factors.
What we found most encouraging, however, was how easy it would be for restaurants to reduce or even eliminate their carbon emissions entirely. We’d set out with the anxious question of how bad restaurants are for the environment, and we’d come back with the reassuring answer, “Hey, they’re not that bad at all!” Thus an opportunity presented itself, both to raise awareness and to help reduce dining-related emissions.
Zero Foodprint was founded in 2013 based on the findings from that initial study and one other basic fact: Food is relevant to everyone. It is our most direct connection to nature—a daily requirement that all of us engage with and think about. In the past half century, restaurant dining as a factor of household spending has risen steadily, reaching its highest level of 43 percent in 2012. In the U.S. alone, annual restaurant sales are at an all-time high of $700 billion across a million locations across the country.
There’s no denying that interest in restaurants and restaurant culture is on the rise in the U.S. We understand that this doesn’t make it any easier to run a restaurant business. However, all the added attention does position restaurants and chefs to be leaders in raising awareness about what can be done to reduce the carbon footprint of the global food production system. Think about the influence that restaurants have had in making organic food a part of our everyday lives. Zero Foodprint’s purpose is to help interested restaurants and chefs make the same difference for climate change, while keeping in mind the challenges that face this competitive industry.
Karen Leibowitz is Executive Director of Zero Foodprint and its parent nonprofit, The Perennial Farming Initiative. Karen has co-written two cookbooks: Mission Street Food (with Anthony Myint) and Atelier Crenn (with Dominique Crenn) and her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and other publications. As co-founder of several award-winning and path-breaking restaurants (Mission Chinese Food, The Perennial, and Commonwealth), Karen was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur in 2019. InStyle included Karen in their inaugural list of “50 Badass Women.”
Anthony Myint is Zero Foodprint’s Director of Operations as well as a chef mobilizing the restaurant industry toward healthy soil as a solution to the climate crisis. He is the 2019 winner of the Basque Culinary World Prize for his work with Zero Foodprint. He has co-founded many restaurants and restaurant-adjacent projects, including: Mission Street Food, Mission Chinese Food, Mission Cantina, Mission Burger, Lt. Waffle, Commonwealth, and The Perennial. Anthony was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur in 2019, and has received other honors including Eater.com's Empire Builder of the Year for San Francisco (2011), Food & Wine’s "Top 40 under 40" big thinkers in the food world for 2010, and 7x7’s Magazine's "Hot 20" for 2011.
Tiffany Nurrenbern, Program Director. Tiffany organizes collaborations that foster collective action towards a more healthy, vibrant, equitable and sustainable food system. She works on projects that aim to redefine the power of networks in the midst of generational changes in how we cooperate, communicate, and affiliate with causes and organizations. For many years, Tiffany worked at Roots of Change where she built and facilitated the California Food Policy Council, led ROC's Urban-Rural Roundtable program, which worked with urban and rural leaders from the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles and San Diego to create action plans for local food policy initiatives. She served as Program Director for the Farmers Guild, and consulted on projects with the NRDC, Friends of the Earth, Get Gone Traveler, while concurrently working Front of House at a ZFP member restaurant. She has served in Slow Food leadership for the last 10 years as a leader of Slow Food Russian River, President of Slow Food California, and an International Councilor for Slow Food International.
Zero Foodprint’s Advisory Board:
Peter Freed: Peter is a Renewable Energy Manager at Facebook. He works to secure clean and renewable energy solutions across Facebook’s portfolio of current and future data centers. He also supports Facebook’s efforts in greening the grid more broadly, working with utilities and regulators around the country to help develop a clear means for customers to procure up to 100 percent renewable energy. Prior to working at Facebook, Peter served as Director of TerraPass for more than six years, analyzing and implementing sustainable energy and carbon offset projects with clients including Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and First Solar. He also has extensive experience in international sustainable energy projects. He holds a BS in Earth Systems from Stanford University.
Susan Miller-Davis, Senior Advisor. Susan is Principal of Infinite Table, supporting businesses, public sector organizations, nonprofits and community groups to build resilient economies, create regenerative food systems and fight food waste and climate change. Current and recent engagements include the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), the Northern California Recycling Association (NCRA), The Perennial Restaurant, the Berkeley Food Network (BFN) and a food waste curriculum pilot of the James Beard Foundation. In the past, Susan has worked at Deloitte, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the World Bank, and the United Food and Commercial Workers. Susan holds a BS from Cornell University, an MPA from Princeton University and credentials in Food Studies from University of the Pacific.
David Steele: David is a Founder and a Principal Partner in the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, which includes flour + water, Central Kitchen, Salumeria, and flour + water pizzeria. He is also a Founder of Great Gold, Founder and CEO of One Wealth Advisors, a Managing Partner of Noise Pop Industries, a Co-Creator of Moxie Yoga, and an avid supporter of local arts and cultural organizations including his work on the board of Playground, a non-profit playwright incubator and his work on the board of Zero Foodprint. His play, “Vignettes On Love,” debuted in 2017 and he has had several shows of his work as a mixed media/collage artist.
Chris Ying: Chris is the former editor-in-chief of the award-winning quarterly journal Lucky Peach, and now works with David Chang on Majordomo Media. He is the co-author of the Mission Chinese Food Cookbook and Ivan Ramen, and the editor of The Wurst of Lucky Peach. Before that, he was publisher of McSweeney’s, where he designed and edited the Mission Street Food cookbook. He was one of 7x7’s Hot 30, Good magazine’s Good 100, and one of six people who changed the way we eat, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Prior to jumping ship for publishing, Chris cooked in restaurants in Berkeley and San Francisco.
Zero Foodprint is a program of the Perennial Farming Initiative. The goal of PFI is to foster a renewable food system rooted in healthy soil. We support progressive agriculture, meaning food production that is not only environmentally responsible, but also equitable, productive, and delicious. Learn more at www.perennialfarming.org.