Green Foodservice Alliance

Go on a carbon (CO2) diet and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.

Reduce or Offset Your C02 Use

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a type of greenhouse gas (GHG) that is widely considered by most scientists to be harmful to a person’s health and the environment.

The amount of CO2 emissions by the United States is startling. According to the United Nation’s statistics, the United States emitted 5987.98 tons of CO2 in 2004undefinedan increase of 19.6% since 1990. That equals about 20.40 tons per person in a year.

Many restaurants, however, are choosing to take an active approach to reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions and lessening their impact on the environment by reducing or offsetting the amount of CO2 emitted.

Although there are currently many proposed regulations and legislation to reduce the amount of GHG emissions, none has been passed yet. In the meantime, there are several steps restaurants can do to lessen their carbon footprint and reduce the amount of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

Tips to Get You Started: 

• Measure your baseline GHG emissions (we all have them). This usually entails gathering all your electric, gas and/or oil bills to get an accurate assessment of how much energy your business uses. The Environmental Protection Agency has an online calculator (link here) to help you assess your baseline emissions number.

• Set reduction goals. Determine a percentage of how much you want to reduce your carbon emissions and develop a monthly plan to get you there.

• Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t. If your business is not already recycling, start. The amount of emissions reduced by products being recycled vs. going to a landfill is significant. Also consider replacing conventional light bulbs in 5 of your most frequently used light fixtures with Energy Star bulbs (this will also reduce your monthly electric bill). For other areas where you can’t reduce, carbon offsets are a way to compensate for an individual or business’s energy usage and to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Holly – do you have a list of companies that offer carbon offsets that we can link to here?)

• Integrate energy efficiency goals and climate change policies. [Holly - not clear – integrate the goals with the policies? Or integrate the goals into a company’s policies?]

• Create and implement quality reports and communications. Show concrete statistics that reflect your carbon reduction efforts and communicate that effort to shareholders and the media to gain long-term support for your efforts.

• Incorporate GHG reduction goals in operations, marketing, legal analysis and financial reporting. Carbon footprint reduction is a company-wide effort, so make sure your goals are reflected throughout your different departments.

What’s Next: Challenges and Benefits

The benefits of implementing a carbon offset plan are many, but it does require a sustained commitment from senior management. To reap rewards and benefits, a restaurant must integrate throughout the entire organization; executive education and training may be required. And although the return on investment is both short and long term, the big payoff may not be seen immediately.

Making the commitment does not mean exceeding your capacities, however. Any commitment to sustainability should always set modest, incremental goals.

These goals must have valid, credible metrics that measure progress in order to assess what is working, what isn’t, and where modifications are required. This should be followed by a published report that shares with your stakeholders the results of your efforts. This transparency has proven to be a successful strategy in fortifying the bottom line.

Benefits of implementing a carbon reduction program include:

• Converts liabilities into assets
• The potential for selling credits and adding income
• Offsets are inexpensive – and proactive
• Proactive policies translate into competitive advantage
• Enhanced brand perception and value

For more helpful information, visit:

The Climate Registry               
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Pew Center for Global Climate
World Resources Institute (WRI)
US Department of Energy
US Environmental Protection Agency
California Climate Change Portal
California Air Resources Board

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