How green is your brasserie?

by Fanny Giansetto | C40 Cities
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 14:11 GMT

Pieces of French baguette are seen in a bread basket displayed on a table of a restaurant in Paris, France, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

We're launching a sustainable revolution in Parisian restaurants

I was 10 years old when the mad cow disease scandal broke and I realized for the first time that the food I ate could be dangerous.

I had no idea where my food came from and no way of understanding the potential negative impact it could have on my health. This was just the first of a series of food scandals that prompted me to take action to help improve the quality and sustainability of our food. 

My name is Fanny Giansetto and I am the co-founder of Ecotable, a social enterprise that certifies and promotes sustainable restaurants and food shops. I am also one of 10 young women climate leaders participating in the Women4Climate mentorship scheme, organized by the C40 Cities network of cities fighting climate change. 

Our food system creates detrimental impacts on people and the environment. These occur throughout the journey of food production, from farm to fork.

The way we produce food degrades our soils, pollutes our water and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions, putting pressure on fragile ecosystems and creating public health risks. Studies show that pesticides are having a huge impact on biodiversity in the Ile-de-France region (the home of the French capital), for example. 

One of the reasons for this catastrophic impact on plants and wildlife is the lost connection between the food we eat and how food is produced. If cities like Paris want to deliver on their climate action goals, they need to address the greenhouse gas emissions created by people’s consumption patterns, starting with food. 

This is particularly true for restaurants. For consumers who want to understand where their groceries come from there is more information available at supermarkets and farmers’ markets than ever before. Responsible, local producers are increasingly transparent about how and where their food is grown.

Yet, when we eat in a restaurant, we don’t know where the food has come from or what impact it has had on the environment. 

In France alone, 27 million people eat in a restaurant every day. Each one of those meals represents approximately 6 pounds of carbon dioxide, a gas that drives climate change. At the same time, the equivalent of 76,000 meals are wasted every second worldwide. 

The Ecotable label wants to address this issue by providing an environmental auditing service to restaurants.

If the restaurant fulfils certain criteria, it will qualify for a label. Either way, we want to help restaurants improve their environmental impact.

Our own market study shows that restaurants do want to have a lower ecological impact, but simply lack the time to take action, or don’t know how to achieve it. The Ecotable label wants to enable restaurants to achieve their environmental goals. The whole idea is to help create a more local, sustainable food system, and for people to have access to healthier food. 

As a young woman starting out on this project, I was inspired by the achievements of the many women in Paris and around the world who have long been pioneers of climate action. Their trailblazing makes it easier for me and other women to realize our ambitions.

As part of the C40 Women4Climate initiative, I am being mentored by Alexandra Palt, the L’Oréal chief corporate responsibility officer and executive vice president of the L’Oréal Foundation, who has been helping me and my associates to achieve every goal of our project.

Thanks to her guidance, the label will be officially launched in April 2018. We are now labeling our first restaurants and negotiating partnerships with some major organizations. 

As Alexandra has said, “Ecotable is a great idea, leveraging our history of culinary innovation, particularly in Paris, the city of gastronomy. The many small and medium sized restaurants need professional help to accelerate their transformation towards a more sustainable model to better meet their clients’ expectations as well as to fight climate change. Women are leading the change towards a more sustainable future.” 

My ambition is to transform how every restaurant in Paris approaches the food it serves, and help ensure that every customer can enjoy the world’s finest cuisine with a full understanding of its environmental impact. I hope that, in the future, every restaurant in the world will be required to fulfill mandatory environmental criteria, just as they do with food hygiene. 

Throughout history, French chefs - almost without exception men - have changed the way the world eats. Today, I am confident that it is women’s turn to make an equally profound impact, and I am proud to be part of that unstoppable movement.