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Digital solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of restaurants

The Mission Zero Foodprint project seeks digital solutions to support the carbon neutrality of restaurant operators.

The objective of the Mission Zero Foodprint project is to develop and modernise the business activities of SME restaurant and catering companies as well as their products towards carbon neutrality, and to strengthen co-operation between companies in the sector and their environmentally friendly image. The project participants strive to collaboratively develop concrete tools, digital solutions and other measures for reducing the carbon footprint of daily restaurant routines. Joint development measures also strive to shape visual elements that can guide consumer choices.

During spring and autumn 2020, workshops have been organised, focusing on waste in restaurant and food services, energy efficiency and the carbon footprint of operations. The workshop organised on Zoom in August examined and further developed the ideas created in earlier workshops in the spring, especially from the perspective of the carbon footprint of restaurant and catering services.

Carbon-neutral restaurant in 2030

The workshop was launched by Co-creation Manager Mirva Lampinen of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The introduction discussed the future of carbon-neutral restaurants in 2030.

In her introduction, Lampinen discussed the climate impact of raw materials, in whose definition the nutritional value of the products, their cultural value and the impact of the raw material on the environment should also be taken into account.

— Food plays a major role in the carbon footprint and the impact of the climate. Food is also something we need to consume; we need to eat healthily, and we have a food culture that needs to be nurtured. Our food system is a very multifaceted and complex issue, which renders our means of influencing the carbon footprint of food consumption equally complex. But this is not to say that there is nothing to do about the matter, Lampinen ponders in her presentation.

When discussing future restaurants, two aspects were prominently brought up: the growth of plant-based food and the amount of food ordered from elsewhere instead of preparing it oneself.

— In a sense, eating out is becoming more mundane and is increasingly a means of managing everyday food supply, which can already be seen in the world as an increase in the amount of ordered food. On the other hand, people also seek experiences from restaurants more than before, and go on-site to enjoy the food. This means that eating out will not be eliminated completely, but the level of standard that consumers required of it will grow, Lampinen predicts.

The themes of the introduction were discussed in more depth in small groups, which considered, among other things, the objectives that can be set for the carbon neutrality of restaurants, the concrete measures that restaurants should take to promote carbon neutrality, and how these measures can be monitored. Small groups developed solutions to these issues during the day, and the results were finally reviewed jointly.

Open Call active for September

The project’s pilot application process for new digital solutions is ongoing during October 2020. 3–5 innovative experiments are sought to support the development and measurement of carbon-neutral operations in small and medium-sized restaurants. Ten pilot restaurants participate in the experiments, which should last for about 6 months.

The experiments are expected to produce new digital solutions to better serve restaurants and their challenges in reducing their carbon footprint. During the trial period, a further aim is to learn as much as possible, in co-operation with the project’s stakeholders and solution developers, for example, about how data can be utilised and what the most functional business models are for offering solutions. The aim is to identify the best and most useful solutions, especially for small and medium-sized restaurants.

The aim of the pilot application process is to make solutions available as openly as possible.

— The digital solutions and tools tested in the project must be suitable for the everyday life of restaurants and must not be too heavy. In addition, it would be good if the pilot data could, in the future, also be utilised in other services and on other platforms. It would be great if these solutions could be adopted during the trial period and beyond, says Kaisa Spilling of Forum Virium Helsinki, co-ordinator of the Mission Zero Foodprint project.

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