FoodPrint, an Eco-score to reduce the carbon footprint of collective catering

FoodPrint, an Eco-score to reduce the carbon footprint of collective catering

Noon struck. The smell of fries spreads through the corridors of the refectory while the queue lengthens behind the counters of the collective restaurant. On this sunny Tuesday, Veolia employees crowd into their canteen, in Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône), in the Lyon suburbs. Meal tray in one hand, company badge in the other, Orane, an “environmentally conscious” employee, has not yet made her choice. On the menu this lunch: turkey skewers, lemon and vegetable lasagna. The screen that overlooks her will snatch her from indecision.

For eighteen months, the television at the entrance displays, in addition to the menus, the carbon footprint of each plate offered at lunch. The dishes in the red have a strong impact on the planet, the others are ordered from bright orange to light green according to their influence. Orane, now seated, the plate already empty, seems won over as she savors her dessert: “At a glance, I chose the vegetarian dish. He was in the green, no need to think for ages. That day, vegetable lasagna appears to be four times less harmful to the environment than fish, and almost three times less than meat.

A simple and fun system

We owe the company FoodPrint, co-founded by Élisa Jourde, a young student entrepreneur with a pleasant smile, to have developed this measurement tool. The model, simple and playful, is intended to be understandable by both insiders and laymen. It is inspired by Nutri-score, a labeling system implemented on food packaging since 2017 in France and responsible for informing the consumer about the nutritional quality of a product.

Now anchored in mores, this tool has given new ideas to the government. Bérengère Couillard, then Secretary of State for Ecology, announced in the spring her desire to deploy environmental display for food products sold in supermarkets from January 2024. A consultation phase on the calculation method was launched between several players in the sector. “Once the national Eco-score has been put in place, we can go further by integrating the environmental cost on species, soil or water”, breathes Élisa Jourde, who now recognizes the limits of a measure unique carbon emissions.

The start-up can however be proud of convincing results. Based on its own calculation method, the tool is able to follow all the carbon traces of a dish, from transport to storage. In the Vaulx-en-Velin canteen, the welcome was positive. Highlighted at the foot of the buffet, the Eco-score information is “freely followed”, recalls Sophie Montmailler, communications director at Veolia. Far from punitive ecology, this choice is welcomed: the most committed are satisfied with the accompaniment while the most detached can always taste their favorite energy-intensive dishes.

“It’s a smart way to raise awareness,” insists Laure, table neighbor of Orane, who has also opted for vegetable lasagna. Like many of her colleagues, she now regularly chooses to push meat – and especially red meat – from her meal tray by relying on the display. According to the Giec*, this turns out to be 5 to 25 times more emitting than a vegetarian dish.

Behaviors are changing

“Many customers continue to eat meat because it remains a pleasure that is difficult to give up. But most people reduce their consumption,” underlines the restaurant manager, Didier Cathelain. That day, the turkey skewer was the most successful out of the 400 seats served. At Orane’s table, the fleshless skewer of the skewer can be seen on the plates of some of his neighbors. They decided on poultry after a quick glance at the display screen. “When the meat score appears reasonable, it pushes us to take it because we also need protein,” she comments offhand. Laure, next to her, nods. After all, the energy performance of a food is first and foremost verified on the plate.

* Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

FoodPrint’s recipes for success

  • A calculator without coercion. The Eco-score is not intended to “say what to eat or not to eat”, recalls its founder. He is just an information relay.
  • The vegetarian invites himself to the table. In order to support virtuous actions in favor of the environment, the restaurant has developed its vegetarian offering. It represents nearly 25% of cooked dishes.
  • An awareness tool. In the company canteen, the Eco-score is often the subject of debate. The questions raised by the scale make it possible to better understand the environmental impact of food, which is responsible for 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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