Look For These New Badges on Menus That Help Consumers Act on Climate Change

Panera Bread has announced that it will update its menus with a series of climate-friendly designations designed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) that helps inform consumers about how their food choices affect global climate change.

The “Cool Food Meals” sticker will appear next to some favorites on Panera Bread’s menu like the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt, Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, and Broccoli Cheddar Soup, to signify that the carbon dioxide used to create the ingredients—including from the land used, the energy used in transportation, and in the supply chain—is low enough to be in line with research published by the WRI that aligns agriculture and food-related emissions with the reduction in CO2 emissions needed to meet the 2030 Paris Agreement on climate change.

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. For breakfast in the United States it amounts to 3.59 kg CO2e/portion and for lunch or dinner it is 5.38kg CO2e/portion.

“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 [Panera] and by choosing a Cool Food Meal, they are part of a growing group of people who are building a climate-friendly lifestyle.”

In some ways, more consumers are looking for more climate-oriented eating strategies than in years past according to a small survey of 1,000 Americans aged 18-80, though taste and healthiness are far stronger deciding factors.

59% of those surveyed said it was important to them that their food be produced in a sustainable manner, though things like carbon emissions, land-use, and water-use were not found to be very important. Overwhelmingly it was pesticide use and affordability.

Most of them ate protein more than any other category (38%), and 58% of participants said they tried to stay away from carbohydrates and sugar. Not exactly the picture of Panera Bread’s menu by any stretch of the imagination, but the WRI hopes more franchises will join in adding their Cool Food stickers to menus—and they’ve had some great success already.

Through WRI’s Cool Foods Initiative, various cities and universities have signed on to the Cool Foods Pledge to try and transform civic food service bodies into ones that reduce the amount of CO2 in the supply chain.

According to a press release from WRI, preliminary data for 2019 show that Cool Food Pledge members have already reduced their food-related emissions by 3% collectively, which is beyond the course to reach the reduction targets in line with the Paris Agreement.