You have probably heard of WWF’s Earth Hour, during which lights dim around the world in recognition of energy’s impact on the climate, wildlife, and society. The next Earth Hour will be March 26 at 8:30pm in your time zone. Meanwhile, we have another hour that will raise awareness about food: set your clocks for lunch hour on October 6.
The lunch hour may vary in tradition, length, and of course, food, around the world, but that time away from the desk (or at your desk, the trend in North America) has a huge economic, social, and environmental impact. Food service companies drool at the lucrative contracts they can score at American company cafeterias. Small kitchens around Seoul’s open markets do a brisk business delivering hot steaming soups and bowls of side dishes to retailers who will not step away from their shop even for a minute. Small towns in Latin America watch their main pedestrian streets turn into ghost towns in the early afternoon because of that mid-day meal. And do not even think about using the elevator when the clock hits 11:30 in Hong Kong. The business of lunch, as the food trucks in LA demonstrate, is huge. So are the effects, including water usage, waste, and energy. Now a Japanese consultancy, partnering with Panasonic, is raising awareness about everyone’s favorite hour.
Earth Lunch Hour, on Wednesday, October 6, is a one day event during which Panasonic plants around the globe will think about what they can do to make this daily routine more sustainable. Coordinated with the consulting firm Econetworks, the event, as it rolls across the world’s time zones, hopes to inspire a rethinking about food choices, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and pollution.
Panasonic is instilling new measures throughout its cafeterias around the world. Some definitely make sense, such as cooking in small batches to meet demand, reducing cooking oil consumption, installing water efficient devices, and composting. Some even go against Japanese habits, such as posting pictures of food instead of the iconic plastic version, as well as ceasing to display a freshly cooked example that would have just been tossed at the end of the day. A few raise eyebrows, such as using only pre-cut vegetables in kitchens in order to reduce waste (They had to be cut somewhere, right? And why not make a stock with the vegetable scraps?). Others are nifty, like reusing used cooking oil for bus fuel.
In the end, the message is a good one. Japan wastes 18 million tons of food a year, and wasteful food preparation affects energy and water consumption. The campaign emphasizes the need to harvest more locally grown food, reduce meat consumption, and to avoid unsustainably sourced fish. Raising awareness is never a waste of time, so Panasonic and Econeworks are off to a solid start. So remember–on October 6, you can follow Earth Lunch Hour’s progression on Twitter. We may never look at a steel tray of rubber chicken or mashed potatoes the same way again. But don’t take my word for it: