California Explores “Carbon Footprint Guilt Tax” For Restaurant Diners

A new statewide environmental program in California may soon be coming to a blue state near you.  It’s starting as a volunteer effort that will mean an extra charge for restaurant customers to offset the carbon footprint supposedly involved in going out to eat.

Cue the laugh track.

Launched earlier this month, the “Restore California Renewable Restaurants” program asks participating eateries to add a 1 percent increase to customers’ bills.  The money goes to farms participating in the “Healthy Soils Program,” which supports sustainable farming practices in California.

The voluntary program has attracted national media attention and caught the eye of several restauranteurs in Sacramento.

Restore California is a joint effort by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the (Stalinist) California Air Resources Board, and San Francisco nonprofit, Perennial Farming Initiative. The money raised will be distributed to farms participating in the Department of Food and Agriculture’s Healthy Soils Program, which have been screened to show they practice methods that sequester carbon, reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases and improve soil health.  Customers can opt out of the 1 percent fee, but the hope is most will likely never notice the price increase.  If they do notice, I’m sure the liberals who run this state will follow up with a public-shaming PR campaign.

A restaurant’s carbon footprint includes all greenhouse gasses (mainly carbon dioxide, as well as methane and nitrous oxide) created in the production and transportation of food to customers’ plates or homes, as well as all energy use.

Extra money from the surcharge be given to help carbon-conscious farms offset their high cost-of-doing-business and sell, in theory, sell their goods to more restaurants.  Such operations are so expensive they can’t exist without government handouts.

Basically, this is nothing more than a guilt tax: Pay up and you’re absolved for the sin of environmental gluttony, regardless of whether your practices change.

And the kicker? Carbon Dioxide is an essential atmospheric gas–we can’t live without it.  And, greater the concentrations, the more plantlike flourishes. Check out next week’s Hidden Headlines podcast for more on that part of the story.


Brian Sussman

Reader Interactions


  1. Kimberly Andrew says

    This is a joke, right? ;-D What’s next? An additional 1% at the supermarket when you buy food? Hook up meters to ovens and microwaves and charge a tax when homeowners cook food of any kind?

    Brian, you are correct that plants need these “toxic agents” to flourish. I have several very healthy and happy houseplants that actually help clean the air in my home at night (that’s per a NASA study). They absorb carbon dioxide, benzene, and other toxic agents and “and release oxygen through photosynthesis.” Why not encourage restaurants to use these particular plants inside their premises? They would then be cleansing the air, and patrons could consider them guilt free eateries–especially if they walked or biked to the restaurant.

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