Menu has carbon footprint

The menu at The Canteen in southwest England doesn’t just let diners know how much a dish costs. They can also check its carbon footprint.

The carrot and beetroot pakora with yoghurt sauce is responsible for just 16 grams of CO2 emissions. The aubergines with a miso and harissa sauce with tabbouleh and Zaatar toast caused 675 grams of carbon dioxide.

As customers weigh their options, the menu at the vegetarian restaurant in Bristol includes a comparison with a dish that it does not serve: The emissions from a UK-produced hamburger.

“Three kilos for a burger, wow! I can’t believe it,” exclaimed Enyioma Anomelechi, a 37-year-old diner sipping a beer outside in the sunshine.

The menu notes that a real beef burger’s emissions is “10 times the amount of its vegan alternative.”

The carbon footprints of businesses and consumers have come under growing scrutiny as countries scramble to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius and to achieve net-zero emission by 2050.

The Canteen became in July the first restaurant to agree to put its carbon footprint on the menu under a campaign spearheaded by UK vegan campaigning charity, Viva!

The restaurant’s manager, Liam Stock, called the move a way to “see what we are doing: To understand and improve ourselves.”

The average British person has an annual carbon footprint of more than 10 tons, according to UK government figures.

Britain has set the ambitious goal of reducing harmful emissions by 78 percent by 2035, compared with 1990 figures, in order to meet its international climate change commitments.

Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most effective ways for an individual to reduce their carbon footprint, experts from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in April.

Stock said he knew his restaurant’s dishes would score low carbon footprints, as most of his ingredients are sourced regionally.

“We didn’t have to change anything,” he said, while admitting some surprises, such as learning that imported spices drive up emissions.

To calculate the dishes’ footprints, The Canteen sent its recipes and the source of the ingredients to a specialized company called MyEmissions.

It is able to calculate the carbon impact from “cradle to store,” taking into account farming, processing, transport and packaging.

“If I was choosing between two dishes, maybe depending on how hungry I was, I might choose the one with a lower footprint,” said Nathan Johnson, a 43-year-old diner at the restaurant.

That day, he opted for the chef’s salad, which racks up 162 grams of carbon.

Another diner, 29-year-old Emma Harvey, also backed the idea of increased awareness of carbon footprints “and the ethical effects of the food that we’re eating.”

“We have to incorporate things (like) that into everyday life,” she said.

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