Washington, D.C. – World Resources Institute (WRI) announced a new certification to help consumers identify climate-friendly menu items when they dine out. The new “Cool Food Meals” badge identifies dishes with a lower carbon footprint, in line with what WRI research finds is needed by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement on climate change. Now, just as consumers can make decisions based on nutritional information, they can also decide what to eat based on the climate impact of a dish.
“As kids, we were always told to eat our vegetables—and now there’s another reason to do so. A quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture and related deforestation. With the new “Cool Food Meals” certification, consumers will know if their food choices are helping the climate,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. “The good news is that today we have more choices that can help us reduce our impact on natural resources and the climate while still enjoying tasty food.”
Animal-based foods account for two-thirds of agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, making shifting diets toward less resource-intensive foods like legumes and vegetables an important priority. It’s an issue that consumers are starting to tap into, with one recent report finding that 6 in 10 Americans say it’s important to them that the food they consume is sustainable. In another report, half of those surveyed said they would be willing to choose more sustainable, plant-based foods if they had more information about their environmental impact.
“People are becoming more aware of climate change and its effects, but many still don’t know what they can do about it. Cool Food Meals helps people understand that taking action is as simple as what we eat,” said Daniel Vennard, Director of Sustainable Diets at WRI. “A busy parent or a college student – absolutely anyone – can now go into a restaurant and by choosing a Cool Food Meal, they are part of a growing group of people who are building a climate-friendly lifestyle.”
Panera Bread is the first company with menu items to receive the Cool Food Meals certification. Starting today, Panera will label Cool Food Meals across its entire digital menu with the badge appearing on the Panera Bread website and mobile app. With today’s announcement, the company will also kick off a week-long Cool Food Meals campaign to educate consumers and showcase how eating well for the climate can be delicious.
“With 55% of Panera entrees certified as Cool Food Meals, our guests have many choices for delicious food with a lower carbon footprint, making it possible to help impact climate change through the food they eat in our bakery-cafes. The Cool Food Meals certification is giving Panera another way to give our guests information to make choices that align with their values, which is something we’ve always believed in,” said Niren Chaudhary, CEO, Panera Bread. “We’re thrilled to partner with WRI to spotlight Cool Food Meals, and show that eating well for the planet can be not just easy, but delicious.”
The more than half of Panera’s entrees qualifying as Cool Food Meals include customer favorites like the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt and Broccoli Cheddar Soup. Using a dish’s ingredients list, WRI calculates a dish’s carbon footprint by analyzing the emissions from the agricultural supply chains and the land used to produce the meal. If a dish’s carbon footprint falls below an established per-meal threshold and meets a nutrition safeguard, it is approved as a Cool Food Meal. The per-meal threshold is based upon a maximum recommended daily carbon footprint for a person’s diet, which is 38% smaller than the current average. For breakfast in the United States this is 3.59 kg CO2e/portion and for lunch or dinner it is 5.38kg CO2e/portion. This is in line with what WRI’s research has found is needed by 2030 to help meet the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“It’s incredibly exciting that Cool Food Meals is launching on the Panera Bread menus across America. Our hope is that Cool Food Meals will continue to scale across the nation, and then further afield,” said Vennard.
Through its Cool Food initiative, WRI also leads the Cool Food Pledge, which helps restaurants, hospitals, hotels, universities, and cities tap the latest behavioral science to cut emissions from the food they serve. Strategies range from changing menu layouts and using appetizing language to help consumers more often choose low-carbon options, to offering more plant-focused meals.
Browns, Cambridge University, the city of Copenhagen (Denmark), Harvester, Nestlé, New York University, and the city of Toronto (Canada) are the newest members to sign on to the Cool Food Pledge, which launched in 2018. Together, Cool Food Pledge members are already making 940 million meals more sustainable each year. Preliminary data for 2019 show that Cool Food Pledge members have already reduced their food-related emissions by 3% collectively, which is ahead of the pace needed to meet the group’s target of reducing emissions by 25% by 2030.