A vegetarian diet, according to its proponents, has a lighter ecological footprint, reduced resource impacts, and lower carbon emissions than the non-vegetarian equivalent. A new fast-casual vegetarian restaurant chain, however, is taking “eating green” to a whole new level. Otarian, which already has locations in New York and opens in London this Friday, is the first global chain to carbon footprint all of its menu items according to the internationally recognized PAS 2050 standard. Not only can diners see the carbon figures for each item listed on the menu, but foods that generate too large of a footprint are simply not offered. The restaurant is also testing out the World Resources Institute's new product carbon foot printing standard, which Otarian claims “will help diners to understand the environmental impact of their food choices in a highly measurable and quantifiable way.”

To illustrate how eating there could offset carbon emissions, Otarian offers the following example: by swapping a meat-based lunch for its Carbon Saving Combo meal, a diner could reportedly save 2.3 kg (5.07 lbs.) of carbon, which Otarian says is the equivalent of four central London black cab journeys, a 27 km (16.8 miles) drive in an eco car, or 12 central London tube trips.

It’s not clear whether or not someone could achieve the same results by simply ordering similar foods at a regular restaurant, although Otarian claims to do more than just not use meat. For one thing, ingredients that would normally be transported by air are instead transported by road. If they can’t be delivered by road, then alternative ingredients are used. It also composts or recycles 98 percent of its waste, and uses packaging that is compostable, recyclable or reusable. The buildings themselves incorporate sustainable materials, including recycled glass, plastic and aluminum, and sustainably sourced bamboo.

There’s no doubt that all this environmental friendliness doesn’t do wonders for keeping the prices down, although those listed for the London restaurant don’t sound unreasonable – UKP3.95 to 6.25 for a main dish, or about US$6 to $9.70.

Of course, it all means nothing if the food isn’t any good. We look forward to hearing comments from any readers who have tried the place out!