Quantcast

Have You Eaten at a Carbon-Negative Restaurant Yet?

Climate
Photo credit: Karen Leibowitz

By Laura A. Shepard

Unlike many other trappings of consumer society, food is necessary for survival. Food is also cultural and every year cooks and chefs come up with new ways to make food tastier, healthier or more exciting in some way.

Perennial. Karen Leibowitz

Innovators are always finding ways to solve problems and beat challenges, from using secret ingredients to keeping costs down. Restaurants based on all sorts of wacky concepts come and go to keep up with changing tastes.

In this day and age, climate change is a big problem. Food production and waste are major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions. Growing, raising, harvesting, transporting, storing, cooking, serving and disposing are all energy and labor-intensive.

Despite the inherent challenges, some chefs argue that restaurants can also be part of the solution. A few innovative chefs and restaurant owners are giving it a go and showing that it can be done.

Let's start with Perennial. Owners Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint started from scratch with the concept of a carbon negative restaurant and ran from there.

The couple already owned the successful Mission Chinese in San Francisco.

"In 2012 we had a child and that really focused our minds on the future," Liebowitz said. "We had a person we were pledged to take care of and we worried about her future."

She and Myint assessed Mission Chinese's carbon footprint and implemented some changes.

"We were clearly just retrofitting an existing structure," Liebowitz said. "We were wondering about starting something new."

Agriculture became top priority because plants are crucial for storing carbon.

Perennial serves "California cuisine" and while some dishes include unusual ingredients, Leibowitz says they have to be delicious to make it onto the menu.

Their approach is designed to reduce food waste by using parts of the ingredients that others might discard. This is called "root to stem" vegetable cooking.

"This leads to a lot of creativity," she said.

Cauliflower Toast.Karen Leibowitz

Meat comes from places that employ "carbon ranching" or raising the animals in such a way that it benefits the climate. When they buy an animal, they use the whole animal by strategically placing certain cuts throughout the menu. There's very little waste and very little compromise in terms of taste.

Perennial's menu features Kernza, a perennial grain developed in Kansas. Kernza can be baked into traditionally popular San Francisco sourdough breads.

"People go bonkers for it," Liebowitz said.

They serve the bread with butter and make toasts with seasonal vegetables.

Liebowitz says that environmental groups will often opt to host events at Perennial, but most diners come for the beautiful space and delicious food. Despite climate change serving as the inspiration, the dining experience is similar to any high-end restaurant. While there is little literature on the menu, patrons can ask servers about the climate-focused movements.

Next Page

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A verdant and productive urban garden in Havana. Susanne Bollinger / Wikimedia Commons

By Paul Brown

When countries run short of food, they need to find solutions fast, and one answer can be urban farming.

Read More Show Less
Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less