When Anthony Myint, Co-Founder of Zero Foodprint, reached out to Handline about being a part of their program, we were immediately sold. Many of us try to be environmentally friendly—to a point, we can’t all be Greta Thunberg—but it often feels hopeless. Even with using canvas bags, reducing plastic waste, etc., how much impact can one person make? What Anthony has created with Zero Foodprint is a tangible and meaningful method for restaurants and chefs to help combat climate change.
On a global level, food production accounts for between 19 and 29 percent of climate-warming GHG emissions. New soil science is showing that drastic changes to the food system and the billions of acres of farmland and grassland around the world can remove anywhere from 45% to over 100% of the excess GHG in the atmosphere.
The Process to Becoming Carbon Neutral
Zero Foodprint works with restaurants, giving them two paths to join Zero Foodprint and complete a process to become completely carbon neutral.
With the first option, a business can complete the Zero Foodprint assessment, a questionnaire that gathers information about a restaurants carbon output; for example: how much feedlot beef/lamb/pork does the restaurant go through a week? What’s the monthly energy bill? Where is the produce sourced from?
After completing the assessment and calculating a restaurant’s carbon output with assistance from outside agency 3 Degrees, Zero Foodprint offers a completed report with tangible ways to reduce that number, whether it’s through reducing feedlot beef purchasing, switching to renewable energy, etc.
After the assessment, restaurants can transition into part two, or restaurants skip the assessment and start directly with part two.
For the second option, or the next step after completing the assessment, restaurants can add a charge, typically 1%, to every bill. All the money from this charge will go towards funding renewable farming projects (more on this below). If adding a charge is not a feasible option, the restaurant can also hold a fundraiser, or have one item on the menu of which part or all of the proceeds are donated to address and offset the entire carbon footprint.
Supporting Local Agriculture
By working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Zero Foodprint funds projects in parallel with the CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program. Farms and ranches apply for funding to implement projects to make their farming/agriculture more sustainable—whether its cover cropping, reducing tillage, implementing Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing, or conservation practices that improve soil health. All applicants of the Healthy Soils Program are eligible as well as additional producers in conjunction with the 96 Resource Conservation Districts across CA. The money is divided up according to the percentage of where the carbon emissions come from. 64% of the funds that are raised—which is also the average percentage of carbon emissions from a restaurant that are ingredient-based—goes to the programs mentioned above. The remaining 36%, which includes energy, food waste, and transportation, goes to purchasing traditional carbon offsets.
Whether a fast-casual restaurant can be truly sustainable is a complex conversation. We can source locally, use biodegradable takeout containers, and strive to use organic products, but we still produce a lot of carbon: 472 metric tons of it to be exact. What we’re happy to announce is that our carbon output falls far below other restaurants of similar volume. The fact that we source our meat from local dairy cows and get our oysters from Hog Island means our carbon output was reduced from 590 tons to 472, which is a significant difference!
Our first step after receiving the results of the assessment was getting a site audit from an energy analyst, who put together a report on how we could reduce our energy footprint. Some things they suggested were easy: replacing our walk-in’s auto door closer and replacing some refrigerated drawer gaskets. Some were less easy, like replacing our fryers with ENERGY STAR qualified models (we’re looking into it!).
The next step is adding that 1% charge to every bill. That small fee, only 40 cents of a $40 bill, can make a huge difference—more than a canvas bag ever could. With Zero Foodprint, restaurants are invited to direct their funding to farms and ranches currently in their supply chain as long as they meet selection criteria. We’re hoping that we can support our suppliers who already are a part of these programs and encourage farms and ranchers to join if they haven’t already.
Looking Towards the Future Handline is proud to be one of the first 100 restaurants to become a member of Zero Foodprint, standing alongside titans of the restaurant industry like State Bird Provisions, Atelier Crenn, and Noma. We’ve encouraged fellow local restaurants and cafes to join as well, and are happy to support them if they decide to move forward with the process. Handline wants to make good food that makes people happy, but we also want to take responsibility for the environment and do everything we can to make a difference.
If you’re interested in diving into this topic more, here are some resources you might find useful!
– Zero Foodprint
– An example of the initiatives that Zero Foodprint will help fund
– New York Time’s article on reducing carbon in agriculture
– Scientific study that shows how switching to Adaptive Multi-Paddock grazing can affect carbon emissions
– A list of solutions to reduce carbon and their effectiveness
Learn more about our Fish Market here—one of the many ways we practice sustainability!