With a menu centered on vegetation, the salad chain Sweetgreen mechanically has a decrease carbon footprint than a typical fast-food chain serving hundreds of thousands of burgers. However the firm now plans to go a step additional, setting the aim of reducing its carbon footprint in half in the next six years. The remainder of its emissions might be offset, making the firm carbon impartial.
Over the final 12 months, the restaurant chain labored with Watershed, a software program platform that helps corporations cut back emissions, to calculate its present footprint in obsessive element. “Step one for us was simply to measure and actually perceive the place we’re at so we are able to make the proper investments and set the proper targets and the proper reductions,” says Sweetgreen co-CEO and cofounder Nic Jammet.
That concerned touring to each provider to take a look at particular practices, comparable to the sort of cattle feed used on a dairy farm or the way it processes manure (some farms flip cow poop into vitality, for instance, as a substitute of letting methane, a potent greenhouse fuel, escape into the environment). Understanding that degree of element is important, says Watershed cofounder Taylor Francis, reasonably than counting on stats comparable to the common footprint of one thing like parmesan cheese.
“There’s vital variations in how suppliers produce totally different meals, and people approaches have actually vital carbon influence,” Francis says. “If Sweetgreen sources from the 10% most sustainable suppliers, who’re utilizing cowl crops, and methane digesters, and all these practices that we all know cut back carbon, that may cut the meals manufacturing footprint in half, with out altering something about the menu. That implies that folks can nonetheless go in and eat precisely what they eat at present, however simply because the means the meals is produced has modified, carbon will get cut in half.”
The corporate can use the knowledge to select suppliers or to assist suppliers make investments to cut back every farm’s footprint. It’s additionally utilizing the numbers to tweak its menu. “It’s type of superb to see menu design choices made excited about carbon alongside all the different components,” says Francis. “I’m not conscious of one other restaurant doing the similar factor.”
Menu adjustments would possibly embrace changing some substances, or including new substances comparable to cowl crops—vegetation comparable to clover that may develop between essential crops on a farm and that may assist retailer extra carbon in the soil. “We’ve been taking part in with buckwheat and clover and a bunch of different issues in the lab and making an attempt to incorporate these into our core menu,” says Jammet. Final 12 months, the firm launched a salad that includes kelp, as a result of rising seaweed really captures extra carbon than it emits. It additionally considers substances that may cut back meals waste; a couple of years in the past, for instance, it began utilizing broccoli leaves in a salad after a farmer advised them that the leaves would in any other case be wasted.
The corporate additionally plans to make adjustments inside its buildings, together with switching to clear vitality and extra environment friendly home equipment, and is each different side of its footprint, from how prospects get rid of its compostable bowls to the emissions from supply. (On the different hand, the firm can be starting to roll out new drive-through eating places, one thing that’s probably to improve emissions because it encourages prospects to drive.) Jammet says they don’t but have each piece of their carbon discount plan mapped out, however they assume that the 50% aim is achievable. The emissions that may’t be cut might be offset, so the chain might be carbon impartial by 2027.
Sweetgreen sees it as a great enterprise resolution. “We take into consideration Sweetgreen in 30 years, and our capacity as a rustic to develop meals, and the way local weather change would possibly have an effect on our enterprise,” Jammet says. “And if we really need our enterprise to achieve success—I’m speaking about placing my capitalism hat on right here—in the long run, we simply assume that is the proper factor to do. Normally, it’s this mentality round what’s good for the planet and good for enterprise don’t have to be mutually unique. There’s a enterprise case for this.”