Bon Appetit | Wiki­media Commons

The envi­ron­mental impact of the food supply has come under scrutiny as numerous studies have pointed to food pro­duction as a sig­nif­icant con­tributor to green­house gas emissions.

Bon Appétit Man­agement Company, which operates a cafe in the Knorr Family Dining Room, has made reducing emis­sions a pri­ority. According to their website, in 2007, Bon Appétit set and achieved its goal of reducing its carbon foot­print by emitting the equiv­alent of 5 million less pounds of carbon dioxide every month.

David Apthorpe, the general manager of Hillsdale’s Bon Appétit cafe, said sus­tain­ability is a part of the mission of Bon Appétit, and that the company’s size allows it to make a big impact.

“We have a great oppor­tunity as a company. This part of Compass Group, Bon Appétit, has a revenue upwards of 1 billion dollars and approaching 2 billion, and I think the focus is how can we make an impact on that great of a scale,” Apthorpe said. “In some ways, it’s more of a chal­lenge than being a local restaurant — where you can compost your scraps. But how do you do it in over 500 cafes from coast to coast? It’s an oppor­tunity but it’s a chal­lenge as well.”

Raising cattle is one aspect of food pro­duction that researchers have focused on because raising cattle is bio­log­i­cally inef­fi­cient and cows nat­u­rally produce methane, a green­house gas,as they digest food.

Christopher Heckel, a lec­turer in the biology department, said raising cattle requires vast amounts of water and food, and people should con­sider reducing their envi­ron­mental impact by increasing their con­sumption of plant-based pro­teins, as Bon Appétit has done.

“Given the water crises around the globe, including parts of North America, it’s worth at least taking a very hard look at incor­po­rating more plant-based foods into our diets,” Heckel said.

While some com­panies like Bon Appétit have put a sig­nif­icant emphasis on reducing their impact on the envi­ronment, not everyone is con­vinced it is wise for the gov­ernment to force all com­panies to reduce green­house gas emissions.

Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Gary Wolfram said as devel­oping coun­tries begin to indus­tri­alize, they will want to be able to use whatever resources are cheapest, just as the developed world did when it was indus­tri­al­izing. He added that any gov­ernment reg­u­lation on green­house gas emis­sions in the United States, where people can afford to use more expensive resources, would shift pro­duction to coun­tries without such strict standards.

“It’s not an easy problem to solve because we don’t know it’s a problem, and we don’t know what the amount of the external cost is,” Wolfram said.

Wolfram also said trying to predict how future gen­er­a­tions will impact the envi­ronment cannot be done with any cer­tainty, as improve­ments in tech­nology may render pre­venting emis­sions unimportant.

“Someone is going to figure out a way to take the carbon out and it may be cheaper to take the carbon out than to prevent the carbon from going in,” Wolfram said.

According to the Mar­keting Director of Hillsdale’s Bon Appétit Cafe William Persson, Bon Appétit also encourages sourcing from local vendors, which helps create a smaller carbon foot­print. To work within their cor­porate guide­lines, Hillsdale’s cafe buys coffee from Zingerman’s Coffee in Ann Arbor, MI. This leads to guests at the cafe getting better coffee, he said.

“Zingerman’s really does pride them­selves on having the best quality coffees,” Persson said. “They partner directly with farmers and try to get the best beans pos­sible. They sample new ones every year, and they are never sat­isfied with what they have because they are always trying to get some­thing better.”