Proposed Carbon Label Helps Consumers Reduce Their Carbon Footprint

According to research published in Nature Climate Change, consumers tend to greatly underestimate the carbon emission associated with food.

Food production contributes 19-29% of global greenhouse emissions, with the biggest contributor being meat. The inefficiency of meat production can’t be ignored either: It takes about 38 kilograms of plant-based protein to produce 1kg of beef, which translates to an efficiency of just 3%. For comparison, pork has 9% efficiency and poultry has 13%. Greenhouse emissions from food can be cut significantly by opting for more vegetarian or vegan meals.

To help consumers to make more environmentally conscious food choices, a potential solution has been found to be a “carbon label”, which translates greenhouse emissions into an easier to understand unit: equivalent number of light bulb minutes.

The label also displays the product’s relative environmental impact on an 11-point scale from green to red. A serving of beef and vegetable soup rates at 10 on the scale and its greenhouse emission is estimated to be equivalent to a light bulb turned on for nearly 36 hours. Volunteers who were shown the labels on soups chose significantly less beef and more vegetarian options.

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