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Restaurants in California May Start Adding an Optional 1% Climate Change Fee to Your Bill

Food
Maskot / Getty Images

Dining out in California may offer an opportunity to fight climate change, thanks to a new initiative.


The Restore California Renewable Restaurant program, launched this month, asks restaurants that opt into the program to add a 1 percent surcharge to each customer's bill. The money collected will then go to a state fund supporting sustainable agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The fee is voluntary for both customers and the restaurants, CNN reported, and the fund is administered by the California Air Resources Board, which will work with the nonprofit organization behind the program, the Perennial Farming Initiative, and the state's food and agricultural department.

"The money that's being raised from this is going back into the land, going back into the soils that produce the food," Karen Ross, secretary of California's Department of Food and Agriculture, told ABC affiliate KGO.

Perennial Farming Initiative founder Anthony Myint told CNN that with enough buy-in from customers, a participating restaurant could essentially become carbon neutral. He said Wolfgang Puck's Los Angeles restaurant Spago is one of the initiative's early adopters.

Myint, who owns the acclaimed Mission Chinese restaurant in San Francisco, said he has been adding a 3 percent "CO2 OFFSET" surcharge to every bill — which usually amounts to between 10 and 15 cents — for the last six months to balance the restaurant's carbon footprint, the New York Post reported. Mission Chinese has raised more than $18,000 through the initiative.

Mission Chinese notifies its customers of the surcharge and the reasoning behind it on the menu and so far, Myint doesn't know of any objections.

"I hope customers feel free to decline the fee if they don't believe in climate change, or they're on a tight budget, or for any reason," Myint said to local Fox affiliate KTVU. "That's why it's optional, but I think it's kind of powerful for all of us to work on climate change by default, a few cents at a time."

The organizers anticipate that the Restore California Renewable Restaurant program could add $10 million to the public fund each year, if just 1 in every 100 restaurants participates, KTVU reported.

The fund helps farmers transition from using harmful chemicals to more restorative practices that protect the soil by paying them $10 per ton of carbon removed from the air, according to The Hill.

Considering that agriculture accounted for around 9 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, sustainable farming practices are critical to avoiding worst-case climate projections.

A forthcoming report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services found that soil degradation due in part to agriculture is fueling climate change because it releases previously stored carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. The researchers noted that soil contains three times more carbon than the atmosphere, but 75 billion tons of soil are lost to degradation each year.

"This issue of climate change is obviously massive and future generations don't have the chance to opt out," Myint told KTVU. "We as chefs want to do the right thing and shopping organic and at farmers markets doesn't really feel like enough."

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