Tech giant Google wants to become more sustainable – and one of its ways of doing this is to nudge its employees towards eating more plant-based foods.
Google has been working with a nonprofit organization called the Better Buying Lab, which studies the factors stopping consumers turning away from meat-heavy diets and strategizes to overcome them, for almost a year.
One of the strategies is to create recipes that compete with what are described as ‘power dishes’ – that is, the most common main courses found on America’s menus.
These include chicken sandwiches and salad. In fact, of the country’s top 20 ‘power dishes’ – only one is meat-free (a veggie wrap).
Working with Better Buying Lab, Google has been experimenting in the kitchen to find a ‘plant-forward’ meal that can permeate the top 20 list.
Scott Giambastiani, Google’s Global Food Program Chef and Operations Manager, told Fast Company: “We were trying to solve for a delicious alternative that would displace a good proportion of animal protein.
“It might be completely vegetarian, or it might be what we call a flipped product, where you’re eating 20 per cent or 30 per cent less of the animal protein.”
Google has been most ‘aggressive’ in trying to cut its staff’s intake of beef – as the most environmentally intensive meat to rear – and has been doing so by replacing a percentage of the beef in certain dishes with vegetables.
For example, the burger served at Google is now 50 per cent beef, and 50 per cent mushrooms.
It’s part of a strategy to reduce meat consumption in time, rather than try to convert staff instantly to vegetarianism.
Giambastiani says: “It’s moving people along a continuum, whether people are eating red meat every day and you ask them to start eating a little more white meat, or they’re already on a white meat kick and it’s a little bit more seafood, or moving even further along to alternative proteins or produce.
“You can’t expect everyone to start loving lentils day one. Some do, most don’t. What you’re trying to do instead is get people to think about that continuum.”
Google has integrated a number of other tweaks into its service in order to draw its staff toward healthier, more sustainable options.
These include putting veg-heavy options at the top of the menu, using smaller plates and larger water glasses, and working hard to create tempting salad stations.
Giambastiani says: “We need to think through how we can make a better choice easier for people.”