Just Salad has announced a commitment to label all of its menu items with a corresponding carbon footprint, becoming the first U.S. restaurant chain to do so, by Climate Week, which begins September 21, 2020. Calculated in partnership with a team of NYU Stern School of Business MBA students through a Stern Solutions Project, Just Salad’s carbon footprint labels will become a core pillar of the company’s sustainability strategy and its “convenient sustainability” ethos. Just Salad is also committing to adding plant-based cheese options, which have a lower carbon footprint than their animal-based counterparts, to its menu by 2022 or earlier, after successfully introducing plant-based Beyond BeefⓇ in 2019. Just Salad’s carbon footprint labels will reflect the total estimated greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of the ingredients in each menu item.
“Our food choices will have a profound effect on the fate of our planet. By carbon labeling our menu, we’re embracing climate-smart eating, helping our guests eat for planetary and human health. A calorie label simply isn’t enough anymore -- we need to know how our food choices affect our well-being at a planetary level,” says Sandra Noonan, Chief Sustainability Officer of Just Salad. “Our new carbon labels will provide that insight, helping guests make more holistic choices that take climate change into account.”
Just Salad believes the time is ripe for greater transparency about food’s role in climate change. Food production makes up one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, and adopting plant-based diets is one of the top five actions humanity can take to curb global warming significantly. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Americans feel a personal responsibility to help reduce global warming, though an even greater number feel helpless to do anything about it.
The company’s carbon labeling project is inspired by "climatarianism," a way of eating that takes planetary health into account. Research indicates that plant-based diets are a weapon against climate change: By halving annual consumption of animal-based products, Americans would reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by 35% and move the U.S. 25% closer to its targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. Similar to Just Salad’s Reusable Bowl program, its new carbon labeling initiative empowers consumers to make choices that protect our earth and species alike.
“Labeling our menus about the carbon footprint of producing different dishes is a vitally important way to educate consumers about sustainable diets,” says Diego Rose, professor, and director of nutrition at Tulane University. “I’m excited to see an innovative restaurant, like Just Salad, take the lead on this. We need the food industry to step up, and hopefully, they can show that doing well by the planet can also be good for the bottom line.”
“The work that Just Salad is doing to educate people about their food choices as they relate to planetary health is imperative,” says Sophie Waskow Rifkin, Senior Associate Director, Center for Sustainable Business at NYU Stern School of Business, which facilitated the project. “I’m incredibly proud of our MBA candidates who are passionately dedicated to sustainability and helped Just Salad take this historical step for the betterment of the restaurant industry and our planet.”
The carbon labels will initially be published on Just Salad’s online menu, orderjustsalad.com. Along with its EPA-award-winning Reusable Bowl Program, Just Salad has made numerous efforts to lead the industry in sustainability initiatives. Last year, the brand removed grass-fed beef from its menu and replaced it with Beyond Meat’s plant-based beef alternative, which encompasses 90% less greenhouse gas emissions than regular beef.