Reducing Carbon Emissions with Ugly Food

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The recent United Nations climate conference in Paris drew to a close with a historic deal, but there is still a long uphill battle ahead to reduce emissions and reach the target CO2 levels most climate scientists agree are safe. One creative solution has emerged from the farming industry, where food waste (and the decomposition of edible food in landfills) is responsible for over a billion tons of carbon emissions every year.

Nicholas Chabanne is an entrepreneur encouraging consumers to “eat ugly” through his campaign Gueules Cassées, which translates into Ugly Mugs. He is part of a growing international movement to encourage people to buy and consume more produce that would ordinarily be deemed too visually unappealing for supermarkets – and as a consequence end up in landfills. Often the fruits and vegetables which are discarded by major producers simply do not meet size criteria, or have minor superficial blemishes from the farm.

Chabanne is joined by like-minded entrepreneurs around the globe, including the San Francisco startup Imperfect Produce and the Portuguese cooperative Fruta Feia (or Ugly Fruit). With logistics in place, consumers can buy this produce at significant discounts, but most conventional grocery stores refuse to sell anything that doesn’t meet the strictest visual criteria.

So far, the movement to “eat ugly” has gained a foothold largely with home consumers, but restaurants buying directly from wholesale producers can do their part to increase demand as well. Meeting the climate goals established in Paris will take commitment and creative solutions across the board – hopefully this is one idea that diners can stomach just fine.

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Tipping Lawsuit Against Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern

Recently we wrote about the new trend among US restaurants – largely spearheaded by Danny Meyer himself – toward the more European style of removing tipping altogether and increasing wages across the board (paid for by corresponding price increases). Now a new lawsuit has emerged against Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group by two former employees, who allege minimum wage and tipping violations by Gramercy Tavern during their time their.

The two plaintiffs claim that they were paid the tipped minimum wage (currently $5/hour in New York) when they should have received the full minimum of $8.75 because their tips were pooled and shared with non-service employees. The suit also claim that Gramercy unlawfully withheld all or part of a 20% service charge from special events. They are seeking class action status to recoup the lost tips for all service employees, which likely brings the number to over 100.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Meyers said that “Union Square Hospitality Group has systems in place to comply with all employment regulations. We have always cared deeply about cultivating a strong employee-first culture, and we will review this matter thoroughly.” By 2016, when all USHG restaurants move to a non-tipping system, they will effectively remove the possibility of these types of lawsuits.

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