As we all collectively begin finding ways to do better for the planet, it’s always reassuring and gives us good feelings when a big brand like Panera Bread decides to put effort into that endeavor right along with us. The company made headlines today by becoming the first national restaurant chain to label menu items as climate-friendly; whenever the ingredients of a menu item have a collective carbon dioxide footprint of less than 5.38 kilograms, the item will be marked as a “Cool Food Meal,” a designation from environmental think tank World Resources Institute. Over half of their menu items already qualify.
Just like recommended calories per day, WRI has established a maximum recommended daily carbon footprint for a person's diet, which is 38 percent smaller than the current average. This is in line with what WRI research finds is needed by 2030 to help mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. And, just as Panera was the first to label calories on its menu, the company is now the first to label low carbon entrees (Cool Food Meals as designated by WRI) — menu items that have a low impact on the climate and can help keep you below your daily limit.
The United Nations released a report in 2019 demonstrating that the global food system counts for 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions; dairy and meat are the highest contributors, while veggies, fruits, and grains are lower. "At Panera, we are passionate about keeping the customer at the heart of everything we do, and that includes giving our guests choices to lower their impact on climate change through the food they eat," Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary said. "Understanding the impact of what we eat on the environment is one way we can all take a small step toward combating climate change—so as a food company, we feel a strong responsibility to share this information and empower our guests to help make a difference."
"The science is clear that we're not going to be able to address climate change without changing what we eat. But that doesn't mean that eating for the planet has to be boring," said Daniel Vennard, Director of Sustainable Diets at World Resources Institute. "Cool Food Meals have a low impact on the climate, making them a delicious way to help the planet. This new certification is about spotlighting the dishes that help people build climate-friendly lifestyles." To find a current listing of all climate-friendly Cool Food Meals on Panera's seasonal menu, click here.