No, a regenerative green is not a plant that promises to add years to our aging bodies. Although greens are known as a superfood packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, regenerative green’s name derives from its ability to regenerate not mere humans, but the planet at large. This humble plant in its multiple shapes and sizes does this by pulling carbon from the air and trapping it in the ground, thereby reducing carbon dioxide—the greenhouse gas considered primarily responsible for the changes we see in our climate today. The result is an environment with less carbon in the earth’s atmosphere.
Of course, not everyone agrees that climate change is occurring or that it has anything to do with our industrial practices. Opinions, however, seem to be changing. According to a Yale poll, 7 out of 10 Americans consider global warming to be a real concern.
Unfortunately, most Americans, 70 percent, say they wouldn’t pay $10 every month to help cool planet earth. This statistic would lead one to believe that restaurant guests will not be willing to bare the increased cost associated with carbon-reducing greens. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that this assumption may just be a false one. But before we take a look at our customer’s biases, let’s find out just what makes a green “regenerative.”
In a nutshell, regenerative agriculture relies on farming practices that focus on maintaining a healthy soil and improving the earth’s resources that it requires rather than depleting them. One way it accomplishes this is by not tilling the soil—a practice that releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Regenerative farmers create nutrient-dense soil by planting different crops which release different sugars through their roots that attract different microbes. In addition to rotating crops, they also use various cover crops that help build up nutrients and naturally detracts both pests and disease. These farmers limit chemical fertilizers that can create long-term soil damage.
While almost 100 percent of regenerative agriculture is organic in nature, regenerative farming also focuses on building topsoil, increasing organic matter, sequestering carbon, reducing erosion and the need for heavy machinery.
So, back to our question: Will guests pay up for plants such as greens that are grown using regenerative agricultural practices?
Fast Casual iQ
iQ is a Canada-based healthy fast casual restaurant brand that buys produce, meat, eggs, cheese, butter, and even coffee from local farmers. Their menu includes items such as avocado toast with turnips, radish, microgreens, and shichimi togarashi; spicy kale Caesar salad; and sababa—a dish that brings together sweet potato bean cakes, roasted cauliflower, avocado, chickpeas, cucumbers, carrots, turnips, sunflower seed, cilantro, baby kale, brown rice and a spicy tahini dressing. Yum.
This year, they are adding something new to the menu—regenerative greens.
iQ is partnering with an Ontario organic farm, The New Farm, who is supplying them with the planet-healthy greens. Guests have an option of trying these regenerative greens in iQ’s bowls. Although the greens cost the restaurant more, they’ve opted to leave the price increase up to the guests. They may choose to pay the regular list price or the “suggested price” which sells for 50 cents more.
They are finding that 83 percent of their guests have chosen the higher priced option. Surprising? Heck, yes! Instills faith in humanity? Absolutely.
The chains goal is to show both farmers and restaurants that there is a market for regenerative greens and other produce, as well as educate the 20,000 guests that they serve every week about the benefits of regenerative farming practices.
Our current agriculture practices account for approximately 25 percent of all human-created greenhouse gas emissions. It’s nice to see restaurants taking a stand in favor of practices that reduce emissions and customers that are willing to pay the price.