Eat responsibly!

The goal of the project is to draw attention to the environmental effects of our food consumption habits. We aim to promote responsible choices when eating out or at home. Everyone needs to eat. Most of us even enjoy eating. We believe that if we connect environmentally friendly thinking with something enjoyable (aka: a tasty meal), we can motivate people to be green in other areas of their life as well. We think that our initiative is unique because it aims to reach the consumers and the suppliers at the same time. We try to incorporate the “fun element” into our project and make people understand that being “green” is not as hard as it might seem to be.

On one hand, we try to raise attention to the issue on a blog. We visit restaurants and test them through “green” lenses: instead of talking about the quality of the food, we inform our readers about the environmental practices that the restaurant has. On the other hand, we organise a network of green restaurants, and help them get even more eco-friendly. Only restaurants that achieve the minimum points required on our questionnaire can join the Network, thus making sure that the membership cannot be used purely for marketing purposes or greenwashing.

Eating harms the Planet?
It is impossible to deny that food production and climate change are related. According to FAO (2006) livestock are responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions, which is a bigger share than the emissions coming from transport. Moreover, according to World Bank (2009), livestock and its by-products produce 51% of all emissions. The production of meat and dairy are the most resource intensive, but still, the consumption of meat grew from 71 million tons in 1961 to 284 million tons in 2007. Forests are cut to produce soy and corn that is consumed by the animals we eat, while genetically modified vegetables make their way to our kitchen. Besides the environmental effects, food hides great social challenges as well: In the western world we eat more and more processed food, and we are getting bigger and sicker, while a child dies from hunger every couple minutes, and millions of people lack access to clean water. The amount of food we throw away could feed those who are hungry. We need to realise that our food grows in the Earth, it is grown by people, and that we are lucky to have access to it. For us, eating out is becoming more and more popular, and restaurants are one of the biggest energy consumers in the SME sector. It is thus not enough to make responsible choices at home: we need to support the efforts of those eateries which are reducing their impact when eating out as well.

We promote responsible decisions starting with the ingredients: we encourage local, seasonal, and organic produce to the individuals as well as our restaurants, in order to reduce food miles and the need for chemical fertilizers, and to support local farmers. We encourage reduced meat and dairy consumption, the consumption of local fruit juices over soft drinks, and suggest everyone to ask their grandmother for some good old pickling recipes. We provide ideas of how to save energy and water during cooking at home, and collect seasonal recipes. We also help our member restaurants to find sustainable products and suggest areas where they could develop their practices. Promoting resource efficiency and other eco-friendly practices through the restaurants is a great way to reach a big number of people. Besides, we organise events, carrotmobs and we are active in the online media, so people can share their tips, their thoughts and the challenges they might face with sustainable eating.

Who benefits?
Consumers like to make sure that they spend their money in an establishment which has the same ethical and environmental values as they themselves do, because they can get reliable assurance from a third party. They can also get objective information about eateries from the blog. Responsible restaurants benefit because they get feedback about their efforts, and motivation to continue on the green route even if it might be hard (especially financially) at the moment. Farmers using sustainable practices benefit, because they can sell their produce. Society benefits, because not-yet-green restaurants will notice the benefits of “greenness”, and start to become more energy- or water efficient, source their products locally, etc.; because healthier and fresher meals will be served; and because most of the eco-friendly food is also healthier.

What do people think about it?
The feedback about the initiative has been very positive and supportive. The number of readers of the blog (reached 10.000 in May, 2013!), the number of followers on social media sites and the number of member restaurants in the network is constantly growing. We have also been invited to several radio and television shows, and been featured in several articles. Already during the first year of the project, the Heroes of Responsible Dining blog has been nominated among the Top 10 best gastronomical blogs in Hungary. At the end of last year we were awarded the Ozone Green Prize. In 2013, we were again among the Top 10 blogs, and we won YouTube’s scholarship to go “live” with the project.

Who finances all this?
This is a purely non-profit initiative. The restaurants do not pay a membership fee or anything similar, and our team does not get any financial support from anywhere, except from occasional small donations. We simply like to eat good food and especially like to do this among friends. We believe that this is an important issue and one that anyone can easily relate to. We encourage everyone to make the first step and commit to making responsible decisions when it comes to eating. Let’s save the world with forks and knives!