In the year and a half since Zero Foodprint started, it has been so busy fixing the restaurant industry’s sustainability problem — or trying to make a dent in it, at the very least — that it’s only now getting around to officially launching. The non-profit provides guidelines for fighting climate change in the foodservice industry in order to help restaurants reduce their carbon footprints in the easiest manner possible. Founded by Lucky Peach editor-in-chief Chris Ying and restaurateur Anthony Myint (Mission Chinese Food, The Perennial, Commonwealth), Zero Foodprint started in 2014 with Noma and Mission Chinese Food as clients, successfully bringing both to carbon neutral. Now Myint and Ying are widening their services to more clients and even the general public, as well as throwing an official launch party at sustainability ground zero The Perennial.
"We’re expanding our mission a little bit and making it a little easier for restaurants who aren't necessarily going to be carbon neutral to make improvements," Ying told Eater. "We want to close the gap between this abstract idea of climate change to what simple things restaurants and people can do in their day to day lives." Examples include restaurants adding a 25-cent charge on a beef dish to offset beef’s higher carbon footprint, throwing one charity dinner that offsets a restaurant’s whole year of carbon emissions and switching from a coal-burning to a renewable energy utility company.
"If everybody once a year didn't order that burger, it would make a difference."
"Part of what separates Zero Foodprint from some other environmental advocacy groups is that we are coming from within the restaurant industry and as such, we really understand the day-to-day operations and how to actually move the needle," Myint explained. "Our goal is to just make it as easy for restaurants to make simple changes, and our role going forward is just to keep broadening that conversation with other restaurants and other chefs."
And with the general public, Myint added. "If you talk about something like calories, people who are not nutritionists still have a pretty good internal sense of calorie counting," he said. "But I don’t think the general public has that sort of internal calculation of understanding the carbon footprint of ingredients and foods."
According to Myint, something as simple as ordering a fried chicken sandwich over a burger can radically reduce a person’s individual carbon footprint. "I was surprised to learn that beef … is three or four times the carbon footprint of chicken or pork," he explained. "It’s a major environmental improvement if people choose that fried chicken sandwich, and I don’t think anybody thinks about it as like, ‘Oh man, that burger is four times worse for the environment.’" The partners maintain that even ordering a burger just one less time a year is an improvement.
Now that Zero Foodprint has effectively used its methods to reduce its first two clients (Noma in Copenhagen and SF’s Mission Chinese Food) to carbon neutral, Myint and Ying have brought two more domestic restaurants on board. While they aren’t ready to announce the newcomers, they are still looking to sign two to four more in the coming months.
So far all this work has been done pro bono, with supplementary donations from Rene Redzepi’s MAD Symposium, The Perennial and individuals. But Ying and Myint are ready to thrust Zero Foodprint into the world with a fundraising "launch" party held at The Perennial on Thursday, March 24 at 6 p.m. with various levels of VIP-ness. Head here for tickets to get in on the carbon-neutral rager.