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CO2 information in food affects eating behavior

Labeling a food’s carbon footprint on the packaging encourages people to eat more sustainably. Researchers in Munich and Berlin and at Aalto University in Finland discovered this in an experiment. The decisive factor is how the information is presented, he said today in a broadcast from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The effect was greatest when environmental costs or traffic light colors were shown.

The ten-day field experiment was carried out in one of the largest student council canteens in Munich. During the testing period, the menu displays not only showed the more than 8,000 visitors to the canteen the usual information such as the prices of the respective dishes and their main ingredients, but also their CO2 footprint.

It had the biggest effect when visitors found out how many euros in environmental damage their lunch did. In this way, up to ten percent less CO2 was caused by the meals than without the information on CO2 emissions.

“It can lead to behavior change”

“Our experiment makes it clear that information about the carbon footprint can lead to a change in consumer behavior. This insight can help policy and business to take appropriate steps towards a more sustainable future,” said Thorsten Sellhorn, professor of accounting and auditing at the University of Munich. “Companies can, for example, voluntarily choose to disclose CO2 statements for food or other products and services”.