‘Carbon Foodprint’ Tool Helps Restaurants Shrink Waste

The term “carbon footprint” usually conjures up images of exhaust-belching vehicles or a house with lights blazing day and night. Despite this narrow perception, there is an element of carbon pollution associated with every single thing we do, from shopping for clothes to making a PB&J sandwich.

Because our food system is dominated by Big Ag’s factory farms, food carries with it a significant carbon footprint. And that’s before it even arrives at its final destination. Restaurants, with long hours of operation and lots of power-hungry equipment, face even more challenges when it comes to shrinking their footprint. Or should we say “foodprint”? A new tool from Compass Group and First Carbon Solutions aims to make it easier for restaurateurs and chefs to lower the carbon footprint of foodservice operations.

dining al fresco

Image via hell28k/Flickr

An easy-to-use, web-based toolkit, Carbon FOODPrint allows chefs and managers to create customized strategies to reduce their operations’ carbon footprints by decreasing waste disposal, and energy and water use. Foodservice managers are presented with 185 strategic choices in four key areas, including menu engineering, kitchen services, site equipment and facilities. Each decision has a direct impact on the establishment’s carbon bottom line.

The Toolkit then makes it possible to combine this information with site-specific operational data from individual cafes to provide up-to-date dashboards on the carbon, energy, water, and wastes associated with all aspect of a food service operation (facilities, kitchen operations, kitchen services, and menu engineering).

As part of the design and collaboration with Compass Group, FirstCarbon Solutions collected thousands of pieces of data on the production, packaging, and transport of individually purchased food items, serving materials, and cleaning chemicals required to manage a foodservice operation “from cradle to customer.”

The developers say Carbon FOODPrint will allow restaurants to benchmark and measure the improvements made throughout the operation. This information can then be shared with clients for annual reports, sustainability indexes, and disclosure to public programs such as the Carbon Disclosure Project .

Early Carbon FOODPrint adopters include well-known companies, such as SAP, and colleges, including Auburn University and Green Mountain College. The Carbon FOODprint toolkit is currently available to all 9,900 Compass Group cafes in the United States.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog