You reached this page through the archive. Click here to return to the archive.

Note: This article is over a year old and information contained in it may no longer be accurate. Please use the contact information in the lower-left corner to verify any information in this article.

Bon Appetit launches Low Carbon Diet

By Anna Stevens '10
April 23, 2008

Bon Appetit's Low Carbon Diet Calculator allows you to drop menu items onto your virtual pan to see how you are contributing to climate change.
Driving less and using more energy-efficient light bulbs are often the first actions many people think of taking to help the environment, but did you know that eating lunch at St. Olaf College also has the power to combat global climate change?

St. Olaf College's food management company, Bon Appetit, unveiled its new Low Carbon Diet on Earth Day, April 22. The goal is to present new menu options that will teach campus community members and visitors how to make food choices that reduce the "carbon footprint" of various food items and slow climate change.

St. Olaf President David R. Anderson '74 gets his reusable lunchbag from Bon Appetit General Manager Katie McKenna.
With all of the energy used to grow, store, transport and process food, an estimated one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from our food system. Some foods -- such as beef and cheese -- are carbon-intensive, and other foods -- such as lettuce and tomatoes -- can be high-carbon products when they're not in season and have to be shipped a long distance. Bon Appetit chefs have transformed each food station in St. Olaf's Stav Hall to highlight low-carbon food choices and show how to make even high-carbon foods more eco-friendly by wisely choosing side dishes.

Bon Appetit's national goal is to make a 25 percent reduction in emissions from the foods that have the highest impact on climate change. To do that, the food management company will purchase all meats and vegetables from North America, reduce the amount of beef and cheese served, eliminate air-freighted seafood and decrease purchases of tropical fruits. Reducing packaging, limiting the use of disposable containers and minimizing food waste are also part of the Low Carbon Diet. Local, seasonal foods also remain the focus of the menu.

The possibilities of the new earth friendly program excite Bon Appetit chef Peter Abrahamson. "As a chef, the last thing I would ever want to do is harm the environment, as nature provides the abundance that inspires me in the kitchen. Connecting food with global warming has made me aware of how I can tread lightly on the planet by offering low-carbon menu choices," he says.

Abrahamson also notes that committing to a low-carbon diet doesn't mean giving up all of the foods you love. "I still enjoy the occasional burger; I know it is high carbon, so I make appropriate adjustments to allow myself the treat," he says.

Diners can also make small adjustments, such as topping a burger with grilled onions rather than out-of-season tomatoes. Eating a low-carbon option like a chicken Caesar salad the following day can also help balance the effect of eating the high-carbon burger.

Bon Appetit is offering educational materials and information about what diners can do to lower the carbon footprint of their food while shopping, at home and when eating out. The company also has created an online calculator that allows each individual to tally their carbon score for the day. Individuals can also text "LCD" and the name of the food item you're considering to '69866' to get a carbon total for that particular item. Detailed information on the new Low Carbon Diet at St. Olaf -- as well as educational materials -- is available on Bon Appetit's website.

Bon Appetit Management Company
Based in Palo Alto, Calif., Bon Appetit Management Company has more than 400 cafes in 28 states. The company offers full onsite food service to corporations, universities and specialty venues. Bon Appetit is committed to sourcing sustainable, local foods for all of its cafes.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or