Climate change is terrifying and we should all be stressed about it all the time—so why should a nice dinner out be a reprieve from our existential dread? That’s what Californians are saying, anyway. SFGate reports that several Bay Area restaurants have added a (voluntary) 1% surcharge to bills to fight climate change. (The program was initially introduced in April.) All restaurants in California can add the climate change surcharge, but it’s mostly a San Francisco thing for now. Most of the participating restaurants are upscale, where one percent goes further and the clientele is less likely to bat an eye.
You can thank Restore California, a program fighting climate change, for the surcharge. Restore California is a collaboration between two state agencies—the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Air Resources Board—and a San Francisco nonprofit called the Perennial Farming Initiative. The latter was founded by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, the pair behind Mission Chinese Food and other restaurants. Given the duo’s “in” in the bougie SF dining world, it makes sense that that’s the scene to first adopt the surcharge.
According to Perennial Farming’s website, the money accrued by the surcharge goes to California’s Healthy Soil Carbon Fund to help farmers practice renewable farming techniques. Specifically, it gives farmers money to transition into carbon farming, a practice that increases soil carbon and decreases carbon dioxide from the air. Restore California claims in a press release that if 1% of California restaurants add the 1% surcharge, the nonprofit would raise $10 million a year, all of which would go into cultivating renewable agriculture in the state.
Like so many progressive initiatives, we’ll just have to see how this works on the West Coast, and take it from there. Hopefully, Californians will be as gung-ho about carbon farming as they were about joining cults in the 1970s.