Is there a way to make eating out more environmentally friendly? A team of German researchers thinks the answer is a bright green yes.
They’d like restaurants to offer menus that clearly label the environmental impact — or “carbon footprint” — of specific meal options.
“In the broadest sense, we asked how restaurant owners can contribute to the struggle against the climate crisis with some kind of ‘soft measure’ that does not require changing their dish offers,” explained study author Benedikt Seger. He’s a postdoctoral research scientist with the Department of Psychology at Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg.
For example, a salad that comes with beef would be labeled “high emission.” That would mean the meal generates a higher carbon footprint — perhaps in the range of 2 or even 3 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) — and is therefore less environmentally friendly.
Alternatively, a vegan spaghetti dish would be labeled “low emission.” It would therefore be greener, in that it might produce just 130 grams of CO2.
This information could do a lot to sway diners’ restaurant choices.
In their study, investigators put together nine menus in all, reflecting what Seger called “a broad range of restaurant types” that included Chinese, Italian and Indian dishes, alongside American-style burgers.
The menus were offered to just over 250 volunteer diners in an online simulation of an eating out experience, meaning no actual eating was involved.
In some cases the menus came with a twist: default meals the customer could modify to be more or less green, with the addition (or elimination) of components like beef, poultry or falafel.
The result, said Seger, was a big environmental win.
“On average,” he noted, “the default ‘switches’ reduced carbon emissions by 300 grams CO2 per dish. And the labels reduced the emissions by an average 200 grams CO2 per dish.”
Seger acknowledged that the choices customers might make when offered similar menus in a real-world setting might be different, as “there will be many other factors that influence the decision, including the presence of other guests and the sight and smell of what they have ordered,” he said.
“Nevertheless, these clear results are quite encouraging,” Seger said. The findings “show that many people are ready to consider the climate crisis in their everyday decisions, even in contexts where they only want to have a nice time and enjoy their meal.”
Seger noted that for this to work, restaurants will need to “take their chances and redesign their menus.”
Lona Sandon is program director of clinical nutrition with the School of Health Professions at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. She suggested that as a practical matter the green menu approach is likely to meet with mixed results.
“It will certainly make a great marketing tool for some restaurants,” Sandon said. “I can see some would jump right on board with this.”
And among consumers, “there will be some that think this is great and use it to make choices,” she added.
At the same time, however, Sandon noted that “others will ignore it just as they ignore the calorie and fat information.” And even with both restaurants and consumers on board, there will be the issue of exactly how to determine what a particular meal’s carbon footprint really is.
“The food system is very complex,” Sandon said. “And the inputs that go into producing and processing a food item varies greatly, and will depend on where it is coming from, and the grower’s own practices and ability to limit greenhouse gas production.”
For example, “growing zucchini versus beef cattle may appear to use less resources, and result in less methane gas on the surface,” she said.
“However, one must consider all the resources that go into transporting the vegetable to a packing and processing plant, and the steps involved in transporting — boat, plane, train or truck– the finished product — fresh, frozen, chopped or prewashed — to the restaurant to end up on your plate,” Sandon said.
Aside from a menu redesign, Sandon suggested there are other ways to approach eating out in an environmentally responsible manner.
“Personally, I would be more interested in knowing what a restaurant is doing to manage waste and reduce overuse of resources rather than the carbon footprint numbers on a menu,” she said.
And, Sandon added, consumers already have lots of proactive options, ranging from walking to the restaurant rather than driving; choosing smaller meal portions; avoiding over-ordering, and making an effort to always bring home leftovers.
The findings appear in the May 11 issue of PLOS Climate.
There’s more on sustainable eating at Harvard School of Public Health.
SOURCES: Benedikt T. Seger, PhD, postdoctoral research scientist, Department of Psychology, Julius Maximilian University, Würzburg, Germany; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, program director and associate professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition, School of Health Professions, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; PLOS Climate, May 11, 2022
19 CommentsLeave a Reply
you have a great blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my blog?
I genuinely value your work, Great post.
great post, very informative. I wonder why the opposite specialists of this sector do not notice this. You should proceed your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!
I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thx again
I was very happy to search out this net-site.I wished to thanks in your time for this glorious learn!! I definitely enjoying each little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.
74720 456795Intending start up a enterprise about the web involves revealing marketing plus items not only to ladies locally, yet somehow to several buyers who are web-based as a rule. e-learning 888804
I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my website 🙂
Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your article seem to be running off the screen in Safari. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Many thanks
Keep functioning ,fantastic job!
I’d perpetually want to be update on new blog posts on this internet site, saved to my bookmarks! .
I enjoy your writing style really loving this internet site.
Absolutely pent written content, thanks for selective information.
I discovered your weblog web site on google and test a number of of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the superb operate. I simply extra up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Searching for forward to reading more from you later on!…
455671 826499Your post is truly informative. Much more than that, it??s engaging, compelling and well-written. I would desire to see even much more of these types of fantastic writing. 361781
Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!
Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Thank you
Hey! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
I’ve read several excellent stuff here. Certainly value bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how a lot attempt you set to make this sort of excellent informative website.
221316 993576This is such a great resource that youre offering and you supply out at no cost. I appreciate seeing websites that realize the worth of offering a perfect useful resource totally free of charge. I genuinely loved reading your submit. 690117