ZeroFoodprint 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.
ZeroFoodprint 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. ZeroFoodprint’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.
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.
Anthony Myint: Anthony is a restaurateur, chef, author, and food consultant based in San Francisco, California. He is the founder of Mission Street Food, Mission Chinese Food, Mission Cantina, Mission Burger, Lt. Waffle, and Commonwealth Restaurant. He is a pioneer in the charitable restaurant business. Myint was named to Chow.com's 13 Most Influential People in the Food World and was selected Eater.com's Empire Builder of the Year for San Francisco (2011). Food & Wine Magazine listed Myint among the "Top 40 under 40" big thinkers in the food world for 2010. He was also Charitable Chef of the year by SF Weekly, and one of 7x7’s Magazine's "Hot 20" for 2011.
Chris Ying: Chris Ying worked for McSweeney’s as a designer and editor for five years before eventually becoming publisher. In 2011, he launched the award-winning quarterly journal Lucky Peach with chef David Chang and writer Peter Meehan, and also designed and edited the first McSweeney’s cookbook, Mission Street Food. He is the co-author of the Mission Chinese Food Cookbook and Ivan Ramen, and the editor of The Wurst of Lucky Peach. 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.
Elizabeth Singleton, Executive Director. Elizabeth has spent much of her career focused on environmental conservation and sustainability. She first became interested in the links between food and climate when she coordinated a strategic planning effort for the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation that focused on food production systems as a global driver of environmental degradation. Prior to her work at the Foundation, Elizabeth managed The Dow Chemical Company's effort to leverage their products and technology to address major global issues such as clean drinking water, energy efficiency, and affordable housing. Early in her career, Elizabeth co-founded and led the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, a coalition organization working to empower local community to manage and benefit from resources such as wildlife and forests. Elizabeth has an MBA from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs at Princeton University.
ZeroFoodprint is a project of the Trust for Conservation Innovation.