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With Zero Foodprint week, San Francisco restaurants do their part for global climate summit

Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SAN FRANCISCO -- No one was surprised that the cows were a major culprit. But quail eggs? That was unexpected.

When the fashionable San Francisco eatery In Situ did a top-to-bottom review of its carbon footprint, they found a lot of issues. That was the point.

Now it is among 60 restaurants promising a carbon-free dining experience this week. Why? Because this is San Francisco, and chefs want to ensure that Gov. Jerry Brown's global climate summit is fit for foodies, complete with esoteric menus worth a cameo on "Portlandia."

But the movement is no joke. Food is fast emerging as one of the more intractable -- and overlooked -- climate problems. Hence Zero Foodprint week.

The three-day summit is embracing the food challenge whole hog, from enticing delegates with carbon neutral menus, to holding climate cuisine seminars for restaurateurs, to soliciting weighty pledges from governments focused on sustainable soils and waste reduction.

"We learned that none of the climate action plans drafted to date address the issue of food," Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said in an interview Wednesday. "We are eager to bring it into the conversation and set some benchmarks and goals the industry can agree on."

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A day earlier Borden had spoken at a seminar affiliated with the climate summit and geared toward food professionals. Among the panels: "Chew-sing the right ingredients." As in choosing.

But there is a much bigger conversation about food happening at the summit.

The event is built on five pillars, and food sustainability is one of them. Food waste alone creates about 8 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., that is the equivalent of the emissions spewed by 43 million cars.

Some 1.3 billion tons of produce, meat, seafood and grain get thrown out or spoil on the farm or during distribution -- theoretically more than enough to feed every undernourished person on the globe.

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