Stories / Impact

How to Dine Out and Fight Climate Change

Support restaurants that put sustainability at the top of their menus

Katherine Miller

May 20, 2019


Oysters photo by Jeff Gurwin
Photo: Jeff Gurwin

James Beard Foundation vice president of Impact Katherine Miller highlights the recent U.N. proclamation on the vital need to tackle climate change, and points to several initiatives in the restaurant industry that allow you to enjoy something delicious, and help the environment, too.


Mark your calendars: May 9, 2019. Yes, that’s right, May 9. I know, I know—you’re reading this at the end of May, maybe even early June if you’re catching up on email, but May 9, 2019 is the day leaders at the United Nations proclaimed tackling climate change a “moral, ethical, and economic imperative.Citing the interconnected reasons for taking action, the United Nations said that the only way to secure basic human rights, including the right to health and the right to food security for all, is for individuals, businesses, and governments to take actions to help slow the dramatic temperature changes that currently put people, animals, and habitats at risk around the globe.

That’s a lot for one person—you or I—to tackle, but here at the James Beard Foundation we believe in science, and in the power of good food for good. The science is telling us that we all need to change our ways: we need to figure out ways to waste less, curb energy consumption, and make responsible decisions about how we treat the planet. The choices we make every day will add up, can make a difference, and can be delicious, too.

Here are just a few projects the Beard Foundation supports to help us tackle this climate crisis and do our part for Mother Earth:

Restaurants focused on supporting local businesses: while shopping locally may only have a small impact on your personal greenhouse gas emissions, it will help support local jobs and maybe even better farming practices. So if you’re looking for restaurants that put their food dollars to work in building local economies, check out the Good Food Restaurant List. Currently more than 100 establishments around the country participate in this powerful tool that looks at how chefs and restaurants support local food businesses. The James Beard Foundation has partnered with them to expand the list: if you’re a chef or owner looking to articulate the good food work you’re doing, apply before July 31 to be considered for this year’s list.)

Support carbon neutral businesses: across the United States, city and state governments are making policy changes to incentivize businesses to go the extra mile when it comes to climate change. One great example: under a new program in California, “consumers will be able to choose from a list of zero-carbon eateries that offset emissions associated with their meals by funding greenhouse gas-reduction projects on California farms.” Making changes to agriculture practices has the potential to be a big contributor in tackling climate change. What we’re seeing in California benefits both farmers and consumers.

Celebrate World Oceans Day and eat more seafood: last month, I wrote about small steps you could take in support of Earth Day. Well, now I’m asking you to support World Oceans Day on Saturday, June 8. On this day, eat more seafood—but eat it from a restaurant on our Smart Catch list, or buy something that is rated best choice or good alternative by Seafood Watch. If you can, source your seafood from close to home. If that’s not possible, make sure to do your due diligence on which species are harvested responsibly—free from fraud, slavery and with concern for the environment.

Many scientists and experts on climate change believe collective actions, driven by policy change and corporate behaviors, can help reduce carbon emissions drastically by 2050. In the United Kingdom, the government is proposing achieving zero emissions by that date. Here in the United States, for a variety of reasons, federal policy change will happen more slowly.

It’s up to us to act quickly. Millions of small actions can collectively make big changes possible.  We can all start by making delicious and sustainable choices every day.

For more information about our Impact programs, please visit


Katherine Miller is vice president of Impact at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Twitter.