Want to save the environment? Spoiler alert: you may have to eat less hamburgers

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They are tasty, but cheeseburgers rank tops among the foods that generate the most polluting carbon dioxide to produce. (KGO)

Restaurant week is getting a twist in San Francisco during the Global Climate Action Summit.

More than 50 top Bay Area restaurants -- including Cala, flour + water and benu -- are going carbon neutral this week as part of ZeroFoodprint Dining Week in partnership with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. That means the food they serve will have zero impact on the environment.

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Restaurants like The Perennial will eliminate reduce the greenhouse gases their food generates by selecting ingredients with a smaller carbon footprint and by purchasing carbon credits.

It's something co-owner Karen Leibowitz has been doing for some time.


"There are ways of drawing down more greenhouse gases than we release through agriculture," said Leibowitz. "People have the idea that sustainable food is a sacrifice of either flavor or amount, but it is actually a real opportunity to engage in how food is grown."

The Perennial gets its meat from Stemple Creek Ranch in Marin, which raises lets its cows and lambs graze naturally in land protected by the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT).

Leibowitz, who also owns Mission Chinese Food, teamed up with food designer Yunwen Tu (Tutu) to demonstrate the impact of carbon emissions in food.

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Tutu created identical cubes that weight differently depending on how many carbon emissions a specific food takes to produce.

On one side of a giant balance she placed two ounces of feed-lot beef, about the size of a McDonald's hamburger patty. On the other side she was able to place 6 ounces of salmon, 4 ounces of pasta, 6 ounces of broccoli, 5 ounces of spinach, 2 ounces of eggs, 12 ounces of tomatoes and 2 ounces of oranges to reach the same amount of carbon emissions generated by that small amount of beef.

Producing one pound of beef creates the same amount of carbon dioxide as driving for more than 27 miles, according to information provided by Zero Food Print Foorprint Calculator.



"The idea is not to prevent people from eating beef or animal protein," said Tutu. "The idea is that if we think about the food we eat, they have different costs. Maybe we can change our ingredients to make it a little better for the environment.

Want to learn more? Take a fun quiz to determine the carbon footprint of your meal here and learn more about reducing your carbon footprint here.
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