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“Climate-friendly” menu items highlighted in new initiative

Image from Panera Bread digital menu

The World Resources Institute is identifying menu items with a lower carbon footprint to highlight climate-friendly dine out meal options.

Based on the ingredient list of each dish, the carbon footprint of each meal at participating restaurants is calculated by looking at the emissions from the ag supply chain and land used to produce the meal. If the dish has a carbon footprint below the established per-meal threshold and meets nutrition standards it is labeled as a “Cool Food Meal”. The threshold which is based on a recommended daily carbon footprint for a person’s diet, is 3.59 kg CO2e/portion for breakfast and 5.38kg CO2e/portion for lunch. The calculations are in line with what WRI research shows is needed by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change.  

Director of Sustainable Diets for the World Resources Institute Daniel Vennard says more people are aware of the impacts of climate change but are not sure how they can help. He says this initiative allows consumers to create a climate-friendly lifestyle by simply choosing a meal based on its climate impact.

The World Resources Institute says animal-based foods account for two-thirds of agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, adding that a shift toward less resource-intensive foods like legumes and vegetables is an important priority. The Animal Agriculture Alliance and other ag groups disagree with that assessment.

Panera Bread is the first company to display the “Cool Food Meal” badges on their digital menus.

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