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Development of a Climate Choice meal concept for restaurants based on carbon footprinting

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Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from food production and consumption can be made at the level of individual diet. Together with the food and beverage sector, consumers could play a significant role by making informed choices that benefit the environment and their own health. Communicating information on carbon footprints to consumers is challenging and should be made very simple, yet reliable. This sector is showing interest in using eco-design tools to decrease climate change impacts of their meals.


A long-term concept for communicating information on carbon footprints associated with meals was developed in Finland. The criteria for a Climate Choice meal were created through stakeholder dialogue, and three restaurant operators piloted the concept in 25 restaurants. In addition to climate change impacts, possibilities to include other sustainability criteria were reviewed. The concept was based on simplified carbon footprinting of raw material production and processing of ingredients for 105 commonly selected lunches. The carbon footprint calculations allowed the development of the Climate Choice meal concept, its criteria, and piloting the concept. Based on experiences from restaurants and consumers from the pilot phase, final criteria were developed.

Results and discussion

The Climate Choice meal concept was created using two alternative climate criteria: one for immediate implementation and another for future implementation, in cases where carbon footprinting is feasible for restaurants. The criteria for immediate implementation include a list of mainly plant-based ingredients with low carbon footprint. Regarding future criteria, it should be made easy enough for restaurants to estimate the carbon footprints of their meals, allowing labeling of meals when their carbon footprints are at least 25 % smaller than for an average meal. In addition to the two climate criteria, Climate Choice meals need to follow Finnish public catering nutritional recommendations, taking into account that fish species on the Red List of WWF’s Finnish seafood guide are prohibited.


To promote climate-friendly eating, a long-term concept rather than a short-term campaign is needed. There is interest among consumers and restaurants for information on food carbon footprints and sustainability. Lunch is regarded as a good opportunity for consumers to learn about climate-friendly eating. The main challenges are to produce sufficiently reliable background data and to raise consumer and the food and beverage sector interest and understanding of carbon footprints associated with food.

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The authors would like to thank the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, WWF Finland, Restaurant Perho, HYY Restaurants, and Fazer Food Services for funding the Climate Lunch project.

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Correspondence to Hannele Pulkkinen.

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Responsible editor: Niels Jungbluth

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Pulkkinen, H., Roininen, T., Katajajuuri, JM. et al. Development of a Climate Choice meal concept for restaurants based on carbon footprinting. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21, 621–630 (2016).

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