Enjoyment the main priority
Catering companies running canteens and staff restaurants have responded to the CO2 logic with enthusiasm. They are well aware of the economies of scale that result when weight-based calculations come into play. Moreover, emissions are an important topic for many of the companies, for which they provide catering services. The SV Schweiz catering company also initiated a CO2 reduction programme three years ago. However, as Peter Lutz, Chief Marketing Officer of SV Group stresses in the separate interview below, it only works if it does not affect the customers’ enjoyment of their food. Concrete CO2 values are not indicated on the menus of either Compass Group (Switzerland) or SV Schweiz canteens and restaurants. When the customer chooses a climate-friendly dish, they should be able to sit back and enjoy their food with confidence. Furthermore, they should not be dictated to about how they should eat.
Vegetables the order of the day
Nonetheless, Eaternity aims to increase awareness: the plan is to make climate-friendly eating a mainstream affair. And Klarmann has a very easy recipe for achieving this: “Just eat more seasonal and local vegetables – you can achieve the greatest savings in CO2 emissions by doing this.” Moreover, people who avoid products delivered to Switzerland by air and are sparing in their consumption of meat and milk products are already climate heroes.
The exact process for calculating the emissions generated by bread and bananas is complicated. It involves breaking down the lifecycle of the food so that the production, transport and further-processing stages are clearly identifiable. Klarmann explains that, as a spin-off of the ETH Zurich, Eaternity has been able to compile the world’s second biggest database for this purpose, which has been loaded with data from studies about greenhouse gas emissions. Using an ingenious methodology, it provides information about the impact that may be expected for every food item and expressed in the currency of CO2. Despite this, Eaternity had to research the values of around 4,500 food items with Compass Group (Switzerland) before launching the programme as the story of every single ingredient – for example palm oil – counts.
Organic not always low-CO2
The focus on CO2 turns certain ideas we have about good and bad food on their head. Coca Cola is more climate-friendly than orange juice. Methane emissions drive up the CO2 balance of all animal products. Fruit from Swiss greenhouses heated using fossil fuel falls short compared to fruit arriving by ship from sunny regions. Organic beef performs worse and organic potatoes better than their non-organic equivalents and, according to the CO2 calculator, a chicken dish is better than cheese fondue.
“CO2 emissions are a problem that requires urgent action,” says Klarmann. At the same time, the CO2 approach has positive impacts on the entire resource footprint.: “If we reduce emissions significantly, we also reduce our consumption of oil, water and land and cause less air pollution.” This can only be consistently achieved by vegans or vegetarians, at best. But that is a private matter according to Klarmann.