April 22, 2023

Are we taking the right approach?

Few people know that Clover is environmental activism. This is by design.

And it works. We do these customer surveys and see that 9 out of 10 Clover customers are NOT vegetarian. Yet I’m constantly troubled by conflicting feelings about the approach we’ve taken. For one, I’d love for all of the wonderful people working to make Clover happen to know they are climate warriors.

I’d guess that while most people working at Clover are excited and proud to be a part of our company, it’s a small number who think of their work as activism. But it is. And it’s the best kind. We’re not working on something theoretical or talking about things that might maybe someday happen. We are making change with direct action. Every time our staff takes the extra time to make a beautiful sandwich, or to chat with a customer who might be skeptical of our food, they’re fighting global warming.

I’m sometimes afraid that the path we’ve taken—putting taste first but not talking about our environmental mission—has kept our team from feeling the pride they could/should feel in their climate work.

Second, I know that most (all?) of our customers don’t know how ambitious our aspirations are at Clover. To save the planet, the world needs to eat less meat. And that means the US has to eat less meat. Currently we’re averaging 3.2 servings of meat per day per American. This results in more CO2 and equivalent emissions than all of our cars, buses, trucks, airplanes, and boats combined.

We as Americans strongly influence others. KFC will open 1,300 stores in China this year!! If we have any chance of reversing climate change, we have to find a way for Americans and everyone around the world to eat much less meat. And I’d like it if that new way of eating was delicious and and nutrient-dense and something that everyone can crave.But for most of our customers, Clover the best coffee they’ve tasted, or a Chickpea Fritter Sandwich bursting with color and flavor. Our focus on taste means our community doesn’t know they’re part of saving the planet.While Clover has had lots of success serving lots and lots of people (we’re a bit more of a household name today than when Rolando and I first pulled up the truck to MIT in 2008) I have moments every day where I just want to come straight out and tell everybody “We need a revolution!!!” What are we doing nibbling around the edges when we know with such clarity exactly what’s wrong and where we’re headed?! We need everybody to change now!But then I sit down and work with Chris and Phil to figure out how to make a plant-based bowl that meat-lovers will crave (join us at Food Dev if you want to try some early versions of these!) and I end up hoping our day-to-day action is more impactful than shouting at everybody.

What do you think? Should we be louder about this stuff?
Happy Earth Day to all of you and thank you for eating with Clover and joining our climate action!This weekend, don’t eat meat. Maybe cook something without meat for your friends or family? And if you’re curious, read a little bit about the emissions of the livestock industry and how we can create sustainable food systems.
Here’s a good one to start with (it’s free, you just have to register):  Food in the Anthropocene.

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