This story was first published on June 20, 2015
THE sauteed chicken breast on silky brown sauce is surrounded by mixed vegetables and french fries. It's a lunch dish that could be on the menu of any staff restaurant or university canteen. But there's a difference - this one has a rather encouraging carbon footprint.
The dish is served at Tech-nopark Zurich's selfservice restaurant Villaggio, which is run by Compass Group.
Head chef Daniel Mietusch recently started to plan his menu with a carbon emission calculator designed by start-up Eaternity. The calculator allows him to prepare a daily dish from the most climatefriendly ingredients.
Compass specialises in group catering and operates some 230 venues across Switzerland. It has recently committed itself to reducing its carbon footprint by 20 per cent by 2020 - no mean feat considering that the food humans consume produces roughly a third of all carbon dioxide emissions.
To live up to its commitment, Compass is working closely with Eaternity and has designated 44 of its restaurants to be part of a pilot programme to cut the carbon footprint of food they serve.
Eaternity CEO Manuel Klarmann said he started the firm because the link between "science and practice" is missing. "What's the point of all the studies and insights on the carbon footprint of our food choices if the chefs and their guests don't have a clue about it?"
How different is Eaternity's calculator from the traditional methods of computing emissions? Some of the parameters for calculating the carbon footprint of a plate of spaghetti bolognese, for instance, would be the same, said Mr Klarmann. These include the use of water and fertilisers or the harvest period.
What sets Eaternity apart is that it also takes into account various dynamic factors: Was the vegetable produced in a greenhouse? What distance did it travel? How long was it stored? What kind of packaging was used?
All in all, Eaternity factors in about 50 such parameters. For the sake of simplicity, these are converted into kilograms of carbon dioxide, to allow direct comparison of the ingredients of a dish. Mr Klarmann is convinced sustainable food can make a huge contribution to climate protection.
DANIEL BONIGER/TAGES-ANZEIGER (SWITZERLAND)