News Treehugger Voices 'Cool Food' Badge Shows Which Menu Items Have Smaller Climate Footprint This initiative by the World Resources Institute helps eaters make low-impact choices. By Katherine Martinko Katherine Martinko Twitter Senior Editor University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Published October 15, 2020 10:29AM EDT Vegetarian burger. @purpleperny via Twenty20 Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices There was a time when nutritional value was the main thing people wanted to know about the food they ate – grams of sugar and fat and daily percentage intakes of other nutrients. That is useful information, but our awareness of food's intrinsic value has expanded beyond that basic point. Knowing that agriculture generates one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, more people want to know now about the origins of the food they choose, and what kind of environmental impact its production has had on the planet. That's where Cool Food comes in. This interesting global initiative, run by the World Resources Institute (WRI), is aimed at helping food providers serve food with a smaller climate footprint. It has two main components. The first is the Cool Food Pledge, which businesses, cities, hospitals, schools, and hotels can sign in order to receive guidance on reducing the climate impact of the meals they serve. Pledge members "commit to a target of reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the food they serve by 25 percent by 2030 relative to a 2015 baseline – a level of ambition in line with achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement." Then they submit data about food purchases confidentially to WRI for overview to receive an annual report that tracks greenhouse gas emissions by food type, year-over-year. The second component is the Cool Food Meals badge that food providers can add to their menus indicating an item's reduced climate footprint. It's a quick and easy way of communicating to the general public that a company is striving to make a difference and their choice is an environmentally-sound one. A Cool Food Meal is designated as such when it meets the following criteria, applied by the WRI: "A dish’s carbon footprint [is analyzed by looking at] the agricultural supply chain and land used to produce the meal. If the carbon footprint falls below an established per-meal threshold and meets nutritional standards, it is certified as a Cool Food Meal. In the United States, the threshold for breakfasts is 3.59 kg CO2e/portion and for lunches and dinners it is 5.38 kg CO2e/portion." Panera Bread is the first restaurant to adopt the Cool Meal badge across its entire digital menu, where 55% of menu items meet the standard. CEO Niren Chaudhary said in a press release, "The Cool Food Meals certification is giving Panera another way to give our guests information to make choices that align with their values ... 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." While it remains to be seen how the Cool Food Meals badge is received by customers and business owners alike, and whether it spreads rapidly across the U.S. or not, I do like the idea of food being measured publicly according to its climate impact. We know that bold labels on unhealthy junk food are effective, so why not do the same for carbon-intensive foods? At the very least it will give some people pause and likely occasionally inspire them to switch beef for beans, and that's a step in the right direction.