NRDC Takes the Zero Foodprint Pledge

A food’s carbon footprint, otherwise known as its “foodprint,” is the sum of emissions created during its lifecycle (Figure 1) that remain in our atmosphere long after the food is eaten. Our global foodprint is so large that reducing these emissions by improving food systems and land management accounts for 15 of the top 25 ways to combat climate change.

Figure 1. Factory farmed red meat's lifecycle has five times the emissions per calorie as vegetables.

We incorporated these climate change solutions into the NRDC Catering Policy—designed to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of our people. To further this policy, we have pledged to support Restore California and Zero Foodprint (ZFP) businesses, which invest in sustainable farming and land management practices that sequester carbon. 

By purchasing from ZFP restaurants and caterers, we support businesses that counterbalance the CO2-equivalent emissions generated from their operation. The participating restaurants are directly creating change in the food system to help reduce negative impact and scale up sustainable farming practices through either:

  • ZFP’s carbon neutrality program, which requires the vendor to reduce operational impact, neutralize scope 1 and 2 emissions through third-party verified offsets, and by contributing to Restore California, counteracts scope 3 emissions from sourcing their ingredients.
  • One percent fee on diners’ checks is invested directly into Restore California’s carbon sequestering farming projects. The projects involve farming practices that turn bad atmospheric carbon into good soil carbon. 

Improving farming practices is critical, since approximately a quarter of global emissions come from agriculture and deforestation. Restore California and ZFP are leading us in the right direction by replacing agricultural practices that release CO2 into the atmosphere (Figure 2) with carbon farming practices. The widespread implementation of improved practices, such as compost application, management of grazing patterns, and restoration of riverside trees, has significant potential to counteract climate change by transforming agriculture into a carbon sink that draws down atmospheric carbon.

Figure 2. Overgrazing, deforestation, and tilling depletes soil and release CO2 into the atmosphere.

Leading with our best fork forward.

There are simple steps you can take to minimize your foodprint and support sustainable agriculture:

Every meal is an opportunity to support climate-conscious agriculture. To make a difference, start by switching out even one ingredient with a better alternative for the planet. For instance, if you ate one less serving of beef every week for a year, it would eliminate the amount of emissions a car creates by driving 348 miles. The proof is in the pudding—getting on board with simple, sustainable food decisions is a recipe for stopping climate change.

About the Authors

Maria McCain

Senior Sustainability Coordinator, Facilities
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The NRDC Catering Policy supports waste reduction and purchasing ethically produced and sustainably sourced food.

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