Food & Drink

‘Check please!’ Californians can fight global warming with restaurant surcharge

A new state program gives Californians a way to fight climate change, one restaurant meal at a time.

“Restore California” is a public-private partnership between the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the California Air Resources Board, and farms, ranches and restaurants across the state, according to a news release from the government agencies.

Participating restaurants will add a 1 percent surcharge to their bills, with that money going into a fund aimed at helping farmers remove carbon from the atmosphere and adopt climate-friendly practices.

The payoff for restaurants could come from increased business. They’ll be able to market themselves as “zero carbon,” which can appeal to customers looking for a good meal with a smaller environmental footprint.

The program links the state agencies with the Perennial Farming Initiative, a Bay Area nonprofit organization created by veterans of San Francisco restaurants. It promotes low-carbon farming and healthy soils.

“We’re excited to be working with CARB and CDFA on a program that will engage chefs, producers, and diners across the state in a transition to a renewable economy that is not only resilient and renewable, but also delicious, healthy, and prosperous.” Said Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint of The Perennial Farming Initiative.

California has already witnessed the devastating effects of global warming, perhaps most visibly in the form of increasingly destructive and record-breaking wildfires.

The Air Resources Board is known for its rules that have compelled automakers to build cleaner cars. It regulates the state’s $50 billion agriculture industry, too, through a number of policies, including the cap-and-trade program and efforts to reduce methane produced by cows on California dairies.

The agriculture department also promotes programs that can help farms take carbon out of the atmosphere, such as its healthy soils grants.

“Farmers and ranchers have long been at the forefront of the battle against climate change,” Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said in a statement announcing the partnership. “This partnership is an opportunity for eaters and buyers to share in land-based solutions.”

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