A Sweet Partnership: Dan Barber + Sweetgreen

Our routine habits of tossing leftover food scraps into the trash have resulted in the following reality: we live in a world where approximately 1/3 of the food produced for consumption is wasted.

On an annual basis, this equates to roughly 2.9 trillion pounds of wasted food. (United Nations Environment Programme).

On June 10th, 2015, The Sustainable Investor examined The Future of Food.

Proclaimed by Times Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Chef Dan Barber has dedicated his life to revolutionizing the way we eat.

Subsequent to traveling the world for two decades to absorb the traditions and insights from chefs and farmers across the globe, Barber arrived at a succinct realization: we must change the way we think about food.

Barber’s steadfast quest to alter the future of food is merely the beginning. Sustainable agriculture is a business that operates on supply and demand – a business comprised of numerous different players such that a true altercation requires a recognition and desire for change on behalf of the farmer, the butcher, the restaurant owner, the chef, the media, and the consumer.

Overindulgence will prove death knell to the foods we know and love.

We must accept moderation.

– The Sustainable Investor.


Perpetually striving to revolutionize the culture of food consumption, Chef Dan Barber has suffered no lack of innovation in his attempts to alter the consumer mindset.

His latest iteration: wastED.


Seeking to explore inefficiencies at all links in the food chain, wastEd is a project with a two-fold mission: educate consumers and praise chefs for current waste reduction efforts & challenge chefs to increasingly think creatively about resources, such that waste becomes diminished.

If this is done right, [it will] broadcast a message about how chefs, and restaurants in particular, can bring about a cultural shift in how we think about producing enough food to feed a growing population. I want to use a chef’s creativity and technique to transform ingredients that we don’t think of as edible and delicious and turn them into something that’s coveted. – Dan Barber.

Earlier this year, Dan Barber transformed his renowned New York City restaurant, Blue Hill, into a pop-up called wastEd. The entire menu was altered to showcase dishes crafted from food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

Behind the scenes, talented chefs worldwide have been embracing the challenging task of transforming seemingly “unusable” food parts into components of a desirable meal. WastED is aspiring to make these practices a known reality, widely applied.

Waste reduction is by no means a novel concept.

No one’s going to claim that a project like wastED is a brand-new way to look at food. It’s cultural change at work. Not long ago, eating sushi was like eating insects. Lobster was fed to prisoners. America has a topsy-turvy food culture, where things are repulsed and then coveted. Part of the goal is to take advantage of a culture that you don’t have in Japan, Italy, or France, where the food traditions are much more steadfast, and for good reason. Those cultures are based on cuisines that, in and of themselves, are all about waste. Coq au vin is a tough male chicken. You didn’t, like we do today, throw it into dog food. You braised it in wine and made an iconic French dish. The lesson – and no chef is going to disagree with this, because I’ve talked to all of them – is that this is the basis of cooking. This is what every great chef was taught to do.” – Dan Barber.


Inspired by Barber, popular salad chain and lifestyle brand, Sweetgreen, is offering a wastED salad architected from food scraps: cabbage cores, kale stems, carrot ribbons, broccoli stalks, romaine lettuce, and arugula, finished with sunflower seeds, parmesan cheese, and a pesto vinaigrette dressing.

And from July 28th until late September, at any Sweetgreen in New York City, it can be yours for $8.60.

50% of the net proceeds will be donated to City Harvest, an organization helping to feed the 1.4 million starving people in Manhattan.

For years, we’ve been inspired by Chef Dan’s culinary approach, the change he’s spearheaded and conversation he’s started around our agriculture and food. He’s a friend and a mentor, and we’re thrilled we could work with his team to amplify such a meaningful message and hopefully change the way our customers think about food. – Nicholas Jammet, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Sweetgreen.


Only NYC?

Critics could contend Sweetgreen is simply “playing it safe” by testing consumer preferences for a short couple of months in a concentrated geographic location, as opposed to truly integrating waste reduction practices into its business model for the long-term.

It’s a fair assessment.

However, two months is 60 days longer than inaction. Optimistically, Sweetgreen’s initiative will encourage other restaurants and consumers to think creatively about resource utilization.


Sweetgreen was originated in 2007 as a result of three college seniors’ frustration at the lack of healthy food options near the Georgetown University campus.

Years later, the founders continue to think creatively. The annual Sweetlife festival brings together people, great music, and healthy food. Recently, the founders have been visiting public schools to educate 4th and 5th graders on the importance of healthy living.

Billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of AOL, Steve Case, has invested millions in Sweetgreen, asserting his belief in Sweetgreen’s potential to disrupt the 5 trillion dollar food industry.

“We do think it has the potential to be the next Chipotle. It’s about the experience you have when you’re there with other people, a sense of community, and that’s what made it more than the average fast causal restaurant.”  – Steve Case.

Watch the Sweetgreen story here.

We want to make sure we create an impact with the community, the customers, and the farmer. What really excites us, its not just the food, its not just the music, its to create experiences where passion and purpose come together. – Sweetgreen.


Mitigating the 2.9 trillion annual pounds of wasted food is undeniably a valuable effort. Producing food requires immense amounts of energy. As such, the wasting of food directly impacts our planet.

We must accept what the environment presents, rather than inflict demands.

On a broader scale, alleviating food waste is a drop in the bucket.


The harsh reality: 1 in 9 people in the world suffer from chronic malnourishment. (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 2012-2014 time period).

There exists a colossal gap between those who have access to food resources and those who do not.

Waste reduction in both developing and developed countries is vitally important. It is a first step. But the real question is how can we get this food to those who have none. Donating food is one avenue that is being implemented through various initiatives today.

Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.

The true impact opportunity when it comes to food is teaching resource efficiency to those who need it the most.

Education becomes paramount.

Categories Climate Change, Company Case Studies

3 thoughts on “A Sweet Partnership: Dan Barber + Sweetgreen

  1. Excellent post, TSI! I will try SweetGreen soon–did not know about them! Also there’s lots going in in the sports world in terms of the donation of unused food. Will have a GreenSportsBlog post about this topic in the coming weeks.


    1. Thanks greensportsblog!

      Sweetgreen is fantastic, I highly recommend. Looking forward to your upcoming post. I saw you added a new member to the GSB team. Kudos.

      Best – TSI.


  2. Hi
    I loved this post.
    I am also a fan of Sweet Green.
    We can all do better to reduce food waste.


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