When a discussion on food trucks comes up, the first words that will typically pop into your head might be anything from “delicious” to “roach coach” but to many they don’t tend to think about “ sustainability.” The problem with this thinking is…it’s wrong! Food trucks and their owners are joining the ranks of urban farms and gardens in changing and greening the urban food scene.
Considering the perils of drive-through restaurants and eating in cars, it may seem counterintuitive but there are many environmental, economic, social and nutritional benefits to these mobile bistros. While it’s true that many food trucks travel to different locations, emitting greenhouse gas emissions along the way, when you compare them to their brick and mortar counterparts, their carbon footprints are actually pretty small. Restaurants use a ton of electricity, water and cleaning services, and in many cases import their ingredients from all over the world (thankfully this trend is changing). Food trucks are forced by their size to conserve resources like water, and while they may move around town, most tend to park in locations with good foot traffic and move only once or twice a day.
Every food truck generates tax revenue for the city and employs local residents (even if many restaurant owners are trying to tell their politicians something different) and doesn’t need much in regards to infrastructure. The positive impacts on the city extend far beyond economics—mobile eateries also can help increase access to healthy, culturally-appropriate foods in low-income, underserved neighborhoods. And, on top of that, they foster a more lively street scene and social awareness of food production and consumption.
Many food truck vendors practice good green habits, but it’s the ones who employ these components that should receive two thumbs-up for sustainability:
- The use of locally farmed ingredients.
- The use of organic ingredients.
- The use of fair trade products.
- Trucks fueled with biodiesel or vegetable oil.
- Trucks with zero-emissions systems.
- The use of propane and rechargeable batteries.
- The use of solar power.
- Packaging and utensils that are either recyclable or compostable.
- Organic and compostable items given to farm or composting facility.
- No idling engine.
So how well does your food truck fit into the “sustainable” category? Based on this criteria, do you think food trucks should be able to become certified as green?