10 March 2008

Food For Trees

Restaurant luminaries unite
to fight climate change

Some of the biggest names in Melbourne’s restaurant business have joined forces to help reduce the environmental damage being done by carbon emissions.

Restaurant luminaries today gathered on Wednesday at the Bourke Street icon, Grossi Florentino Restaurant, to launch Food for TreesTM – a carbon capture scheme that commits the restaurants to tree plantings in and around Melbourne.

The set-up of Food for TreesTM has been funded by five of the most successful businesses in Victoria’s food and wine industry:

Food for Trees founding members:

Grossi Florentino Restaurant, City

De Bortoli Wines, Yarra Valley

Soul Mamas Restaurant, St Kilda

100 Mile Café, City

All Nations Hotel, Richmond

At Wednesday’s launch, the restaurateurs said they were motivated by a desire to do the right thing by the environment and by their customers.

Leanne De Bortoli – De Bortoli Wines:

“Consumers want and should be able to choose to minimise the environmental impact of everything they do, including eating and drinking. Food for TreesTM gives customers the choice of environmentally-conscious dining.”

Guy Grossi – Grossi Florentino:

“Most of us in the restaurant industry like to get our hands dirty. Food for TreesTM is a direct and practical way we can do our bit to reduce the impact of carbon emissions.”

Paul Mathis – 100 Mile Café:

“Many people in the restaurant industry are looking for a way to reduce their impact on the environment. We hope they will join Food for TreesTM and help us achieve the goal of one million new trees within ten years.”

Trees planted by Food for TreesTM will be overseen and managed by the Port Philip and Westernport Catchment Authority – a State government authority - ensuring that trees are planted where they will have the greatest environmental impact.

Food for TreesTM is aiming to plant one million trees within the next 10 years, expecting to capture in the order of 250,000 tons of carbon emissions, as well as cleaning waterways and providing habitat for native wildlife in and around Melbourne.

To kick off the scheme, the founding Food for TreesTM members are planting approximately three hectares in the Yarra Valley. As well as capturing harmful carbon emissions, the new trees will create a corridor of native habitat, providing homes for wildlife including the Helmeted Honeyeater which is on the brink of extinction. The Helmeted Honeyeater can only be found in Victoria and is the State’s bird emblem. Only 100 of the birds remain, mostly in the Yellingbo State Park near Yarra Junction.

Melbourne’s restaurant patrons will be able to identify Food for TreesTM members by the Food for TreesTM logo on restaurant doors and tables, or they can visit http://www.foodfortrees.com.au/ to find Food for TreesTM members.

Charitable Acts and Ethical Marketing are emerging trends that will proliferate through Food Media over the next ten years. Thanks to our concerns about the changing nature of diets and the integrity of the food we provide our families, the hospitality industry will in many ways lead the charge on a grass roots level and in time consumers and retailers will follow suit.

On a global level, Marketing Moguls have been seeking out local causes for some time that will offset their much criticised consumerism by allocating ethical marketing budgets to be sunk into causes that have synergy with their businesses.

For many years now, Mars & Uncle Bens have been supporting Guide Dogs for the visually impaired. Cigarette Mega brand Phillip Morris has funded Meals on Wheels in some states of the USA and one of American Express' charitable funds supports food education programs for teenagers where they are teamed with local chefs and farmers, who volunteer their time to teach and give hands on experience in the hope of garnering a more positive future.

In last week's New York Times an article entitled Friends with Benefits espoused the generosity of restaurants to charity despite themselves running on 'razor thin margins'. In the best case scenarios this is played out within the local community or with neighbourhood charities.

In the cases of celebrity chefs as much as US$8million has been raised by one US chef's foundation over six years, while less notorious chefs have enjoyed the best success in fundraising when multiple restaurants band together. It also provides a social outlet for hospitality industry personnel faced with the daily pressure cooker environment of running their businesses. Naturally this also provides restaurants with the kind of publicity that 'money can't buy', but although potentially looked upon favourably by the taxman, it isn't always enough to get bums on seats.

The Food For Trees carbon capture program, sees Melbourne restaurants banding together to invest in a cause. This particular one has been initiated by Rob Patten, a Social Worker and Ethical Business Developer. In this scheme they are seeking to enlist other restaurants to join this Not for Profit Organisation by committing an investment to contribute to the planting of a million trees over the next ten years.

They ask nothing of punters than to support the venues involved, so they are asking that you choose to dine responsibly in the venues that support the cause. In return the community will benefit by the carbon offset of emissions created by the tree planting and the restoration of nature corridors that will assist in aiding the fight against climate change by restoring large tracts of bushlands where the original ecological benefits of forestry and wetlands can be restored.

The particular benefits of the Food for Trees scheme are that the plantings are not plantation plantings. They are permanent plantings that won’t be cut down in 10-20 years’ time. They are also plantings that do more than just capture carbon emissions. They will provide native habitats, clean waterways, repair landscapes, increase biodiversity and create a healthier environment for us all to live in. And that means a more sustainable environment for us to produce healthy produce and develop a more positive outlook for future generations.

Although I was overcommited and unable to attend this particular launch, I applaud the passion of the restaurants who have sunk money into getting this program off the ground. The idea that customers will differentiate between an environmentally responsible restaurant and one that is not, is debatable in the current market. I wholeheartedly believe however that there is a segment of the younger community who will embrace this, along with old punks like myself.

For the restaurants that participate there is the opportunity for ongoing PR, Marketing kits, media exposure, events, weblinks and staff planting events which should assist with morale and camaraderie in the workplace as well as capturing a wider audience. At an investment of $4 per tree, I would say that it is worth it, especially when tax considerations are accounted for.

Lets get behind it no matter on which side of the hospitality fence we sit. Food for Trees - Make a meal out of climate change.

For further information visit http://foodfortrees.com.au
Watch the ABC's video taken at the launch here

To measure your carbon footprint, go here.


Anonymous said...

I'm all for this initiative Sticky.

However it will take more than just marketing catch phrases, smoke & mirrors to convince me that this is just another way to gain leverage with the green brigade.

I would be much more convinced if Mathis did it for once without the media involved.

Whatever happened to the notion of Noblesse Oblige. I remain a healthy skeptic at the motives of the 'cause with camera'. Not sayiing that I dont beleive the dream but I remain to be concinced of the motives of big business.

Kinda like doing whatever you want then confessing to the priest, that makes it all OK doess it?

Phillip Morris, give me a break.

Have we really suspended our disbelief to the point that a cigarette comapanies seemingly altruistic motives are somehow to compensate for their stock in trade of cigarette addiction & sickness?

Not me sticky. sorry.

stickyfingers said...

I hear you Gobbler and agree in principle. But morally I will not decry a cent that goes toward charity and helping to redress climate change, or building a better future for the people of the world.

For some, money that has come from corporates is dirty money, but as we apparently can't rely on governments for the funding of these causes, people have to take action for themselves.

In Utopia there would be no tobacco companies and the government would take care of everything. Instead the reality is that we have to rely on NGO's funded by corporates to lead the charge on cause related schemes.

The trend in society now is to overcapitalise and buy a large home filled with ostentatious consumer durables, paying it off into eternity and contributing to global carbon emissions with the gadgets within. Those who are in the thrall of this culture rarely do volunteer work or practice philanthropy.

Rather than taking money from businesses working to razor edge margins I am happy to see the bigger corporates contribute the majority of funds in order to assist social causes. It does not completely redress the moral guilt but is definitely the sensible way to raise large amounts of money for ethical causes in the current economic climate.

If a restaurant garners more business from investing financially by donating money to carbon capture schemes and charities, then good on them. And if they reap the benefits of an uplift in sales, then that is the reward that will allow them to continue supporting causes.

The sad reality though, is that most Aussies don't give a damn enough to come in their droves to support causes. Far too many educated and opinionated people sit on the sidelines and criticise NGO's (I don't mean you as I know that you are philantropically predisposed) without ever contributing either financially or in a nuts and bolts way. To me that is further indication of an increasingly spiritually bereft society.

Anonymous said...

What would be even more beneficial to the environment would be the commitment by the privately operated refuse collection companies, that service the restaurant industry, to actually commit to recycling. Currently (to my complete surprise and horror) they don't, justifying their standpoint by somehow claiming that it's not economically viable. So all the garbage gets chucked together and goes off to landfill, even if the restuarant diligently separates the garbage and uses two skips, incredibly wasteful, especially considering that the majority of the waste is recyclable; bottles, cardboard, paper etc.

stickyfingers said...

Hello Anonymous, thanks for weighing in. You make a very valid point. Perhaps the gentleman who initiated Food For Trees might be interested in starting another endeavour, based around the garbage situation? Or perhaps we could start a lobby group to initiate change?

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy to weigh in to that particular campaign, it seems like hypocrisy of the highest order if, on the one hand, the authorities rightly browbeat the general public to do the right thing and on the other seemingly turn a blind eye to the commercial disposal of business waste. I don't know how widespread an issue this is but I personally know of two company's reps who have admitted that they don't do any recycling from smallish businesses. I think the general public would be horrified if they were aware.

stickyfingers said...

Sadly in the matter of recycling it is also happening at the residential level too, with not all councils recycling. There are some that do, while others just dump everything in landfill unbeknownst to residents.

Anonymous said...

Recycling and waste mangement are critical to our environment, so i was thrilled to see that Food for Trees has partnered up with Fare Share to offer the members the opportunity to recycle their waste or excess food for meals for the homeless. Good stuff Food for trees.