One of the things the pandemic has made clearer is that we are almost out of time when it comes to preventing even the most devastating end-results of man-made climate change. People around the world are rightly looking to their political leaders to once and for all take the required steps. Governments alone will not be able to fix this, however.
Consumers and businesses must play their parts too. Restaurants specifically have a crucial role to play, as they can not only redesign their processes, locations and menus to become more sustainable, but, through that, can also educate consumers and help them change their behaviours.
Whenever possible, restaurants should be built or renovated with an emphasis on sustainability. It starts with basic considerations such as what building materials to use. The cement industry, for example, is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Restaurant owners should therefore consider more sustainable alternatives.
Climate control too should be addressed in a more sustainable manner. Examples include heat pumps as well as natural methods of temperature regulation by way of greenery on the premises or the building itself. It has been shown that the presence of trees in front of a restaurant will lower the temperature by as much as 4℃.
Furthermore, instead of making a lot of use of artificial light, restaurants should be constructed in a way which allows them to make use of as much daylight as possible. When furnishing the restaurant, the focus should again be on sustainable materials and products. The same should apply to a restaurant’s day-to-day operations: water and energy should be conserved whenever possible, takeaway packaging should be made from sustainable materials, cleaning products should be eco-friendly, etc.
The place where a restaurant can truly shine in its battle against climate change, however, is in its kitchen or, in other words, in the dishes it serves. After all, in the average restaurant, its main contribution to man-made climate change can be found on almost every plate it serves: meat (and, to a lesser extent, other animal products). Animal agriculture is responsible for, among other things, 44% of the global emissions of methane and 33% of the loss in biodiversity. Similarly, it is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation and the main source of water pollution. Simply put, it is one of the main reasons for man-made climate change.
What’s on the menu?
Restaurant menus play a huge role in influencing peoples’ eating habits. If it wants to survive, the first eating habit humanity must urgently address is its overindulgence in meat as well as other animal products. Climate change cannot be stopped without an aggressive reduction of the amount of meat we consume. It is that simple.
Replacing beef alone with plant-based alternatives would reduce the greenhouse emissions caused by animal agriculture by 96%. Restaurants, all restaurants, must take responsibility and start playing a leading role in this process by replacing meat and other animal products wherever possible (and by using only organic, local meat and other animal products where it isn’t). In some cases, this will lead to drastic changes in the type of food a restaurant makes, but more often than not the differences will be negligible. All it takes is a little creativity. Those who can’t figure it out should make use of consultants that can help them.
Stopping climate change is a responsibility we all share. Restaurants shouldn’t try to hide from it, but instead take a leading role by making use of their unique position in society. The planet and its inhabitants will one day thank them for it.
About the author:
The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.