A Sustainable Food Movement is Underway in the SF Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area has been at the forefront of the growing sustainable food movement for more than a decade. From chefs to corporate caterers, professionals in the food service industry are rethinking the food system. But, why here?

Between the Bay Area’s ethos of innovation and progressive social and environmental action, its world renowned restaurants, and a growing understanding of the implications of food waste, the Bay Area food service industry has been uniquely positioned to spearhead the sustainable food movement.

In order to understand the need for a shift in how the United States handles food production, we must examine the current food landscape. In the U.S., approximately 40% of the food we produce is never consumed, resulting in an estimated 72 billion tons of food waste each year.[1] As food waste expert Dana Gunders states in her Waste Free Kitchen Handbook, “That’s like buying five bags of groceries and then leaving behind two of the bags in the store parking lot.” [2] The wasted food is not just economically impractical, as well as appalling when many Americans are going hungry, but also contributes to the climate crisis.

Globally, food waste accounts for about 8% of humankind’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the acceleration of planetary warming.[3] But, not all countries contribute equally to global food waste. In the United States, food waste creates a larger carbon footprint than that of most countries. In the Bay Area, a person’s diet likely contributes more to their carbon footprint than the fuel they burn driving.[4] In San Francisco alone, residents spend more than residents of all other U.S. cities on eating out.[5] The Bay Area’s restaurant culture, with 55 Michelin star restaurants, is revered, yet it is not unfettered from food waste.[6]

The food service industry is a significant contributor to food waste. In the U.S., restaurants and institutions generate 26% of food wasted each year. The Waste and Resources Action Programme estimates that that in commercial kitchens, 21%  of  food  waste  arises  from  spoilage,  45%  occurs  during  food  preparation  and 34%  originates  from  customers’ plates.[7] A report by the World Resources Institute found that for every dollar on average spent cutting food waste, they saved $14 in operating costs.[8] Therefore, there are both social and economic drivers to curbing food waste in the restaurant industry. The need to continue to mobilize change around our food system has never been clearer and in a competitive market like the Bay Area, a small savings can make a big difference. With the proper knowledge and assistance, food waste in the food service industry can be drastically reduced and improve the bottom line of restaurants and institutions.

Climate Friendly Cuisine:
Food Service Guidance and Best Practices for a Healthy Planet

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
LinkedIn, 222 2nd St, San Francisco
8 AM – 6 PM
A Global Climate Action Summit Affiliate Event
Hosted by LinkedIn and in partnership with Bay Area Air Quality Management District

In an effort to address food waste and help establish a more sustainable food system in the San Francisco Bay Area, restaurants, organizations, companies, and institutions from multiple industries will come together in San Francisco on September 11 to take part in an educational conference. Climate Friendly Cuisine: Food Service Guidance and Best Practices for a Healthy Planet is being organized by Acterra, a Bay Area environmental nonprofit with a strong presence in the business sustainability arena. The day-long educational conference will kick-off with world-famous Chef Traci Des Jardins explaining the importance and profitability of sustainable and climate-friendly food service practices. The event will include three expert panels discussing plant-forward diets, sustainable purchasing, and limiting food waste. The Climate Friendly Cuisine educational conference aims to educate and empower the food-service industry to move toward more sustainable practices.

With continued education through events like the Climate Friendly Cuisine conference and continued community effort to tackle food issues, the Bay Area food service industry is on the right path to a more sustainable future. As the Bay Area sustainable food movement continues to grow and evolve, couldn’t agree more with this statement from food waste expert and Climate Friendly Cuisine conference panelist Dana Gunders, “Food is simply too good to waste.”[9]


[1] “Fighting Food Waste With Food Rescue.” Feeding America, 2018, www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/our-approach/reduce-food-waste.html.

[2] Gunders, Dana. Waste Free Kitchen Handbook: a Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money by Wasting Less Food. Chronicle Books, 2015.

[3] “Climate Change and Your Food: Ten Facts.” Fao.org, FAO of the UN, 2018, www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/356770/icode/.

[4] “Consumption-Based Greenhouse Gas Inventories.” Coolclimate.berkeley.edu, CoolClimate Network, coolclimate.berkeley.edu/inventory.

[5] Elsen, Tracy. “How Do San Franciscans Spend Their Money After Rent?” Curbed SF, Curbed SF, 16 Oct. 2015, sf.curbed.com/2015/10/16/9910538/how-do-san-franciscans-spend-their-money-after-rent.

[6] Sutton, Ryan, and Ellen Fort. “San Francisco Bay Area's Michelin Stars Announced for 2018.” Eater SF, Eater SF, 25 Oct. 2017, sf.eater.com/2017/10/25/16537724/michelin-restaurants-san-francisco-stars-2018.

[7] Gould, Hannah. “Restaurants Have a Huge Food Waste Problem; Could an App Help?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 27 May 2016, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/may/27/restaurants-huge-food-waste-problem-smart-meter-winnow-hugh-fearnley-whittingstall.

[8] Gustin, Georgina, et al. “Cutting Food Waste Is Saving Companies Money (and the Climate Too).” InsideClimate News, InsideClimate News, 7 Mar. 2017, insideclimatenews.org/news/07032017/food-waste-solutions-greenhouse-gas-emissions-methane-climate-change-wri.

[9] Henry, Sarah. “Wasted in San Francisco.” Edible San Francisco, 25 July 2016, ediblesanfrancisco.ediblecommunities.com/wasted.