COSTA MESA — Following a "low-carbon diet" would help reduce the Earth's carbon footprint, but it can also taste better, Vera Chang said.
To prove her point, she brought in small plastic glasses filled with orange juice and orange soda and two kinds of bread and jam for the audience to taste in her low-carbon diet workshop.
One woman got more in her cup than she bargained for.
"It's very low carbon, it's just a little bug," Chang laughed.
Chang, who works for Bon Appétit Management Co., taught two workshops on what makes foods high carbon and what foods to eat that are better for the Earth.
"When you think about climate change what do you think about?" Chang asked the audience. "Most people don't think about food."
The workshop, which attracted only one woman who thought she was going to learn about the low-carb diet, was part of an all-day conference Friday at Vanguard University.
The third annual Environmental Sustainability Conference featured keynote speakers, interactive workshops and an exhibition fair from local businesses that are about not just focusing on the bottom line, but on what's good for the planet.
Shaheen Sadeghi, founder and chief executive of Lab Holding LLC; Rob Holmes, founder and president of Green Living Project; Derek Sabori, director of sustainability at Volcom; Martin Diedrich, founder of Diedrich Coffee and Kéan Coffee; and Spencer Brown, the founder of Rent-A-Green Box, were a few of the local business leaders who spoke at the conference.
"Having a head for business and a heart for community" is the motto of Students in Free Enterprise, or SIFE, whose Vanguard chapter put on the conference, said Bonni Stachowiak, the chapter's advisor and an associate professor of business and management.
"We can't just stop at profit, we need to be thinking about people, planet, profit," she said.
An international nonprofit organization, SIFE works to connect students with business leaders and encourage them to get involved in their community, Stachowiak said.
The Vanguard chapter, which functions as both a class and a club, has been working for the past year to organize the conference, which brought in students from around Orange County and community members, she said.
Vanguard student Jason Luchci, 22, attended Chang's workshop and walked away with ideas of how to reduce the carbon footprint of his food.
During the workshop, the audience brainstormed different ways to eat low carbon — eat locally, seasonally and organically — but it was the idea of meatless Mondays and homegrown vegetables that really stuck with Luchci.
Aiza Oliva, 21, a UC Irvine student and an intern with the Costa Mesa-based Earth Resource Foundation, was struck by how much livestock contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
The information helped her reinforce her vegetarian lifestyle, and everything she learned at the conference will help her motive others to see that they too can make a difference, she said.
"I want to be able to educate and spread the information because we really have an impact on the future of the planet," Oliva said.
Take The Low-Carbon Diet Quiz
1. What fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions is the food system responsible for?
2. Fill in the blank: Nitrous oxide is _____ more potent that carbon dioxide.
A) Two times
B) 55 times
C) 296 times
3. During what time of the year do tomatoes have the smallest carbon footprint?
A) Early spring
4. It's snack time! Which is the low carbon choice?
A) Prepared snacks with organic or natural ingredients
B) A handful of nuts or seeds
C) A cup of yogurt
5. What part of your summer fruit salad contributes the most to climate change?
6. Which part of a burrito contributes the most to climate change?
C) Sour cream
•Answers 1) A 2) C 3) B 4) B 5) A 6) C
Quiz courtesy of Vera Chang of Bon Appétit Management Company.