Carbon labelling reduces our carbon footprint, even for those who try to remain uninformed, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.
Carbon labelling is the idea that food labels should tell us not just what the product contains, but also its environmental footprint.
This concept is growing in popularity, but in order to assess the benefits that it actually has on reducing our carbon footprint, researchers asked 803 participants to choose between six products, each without a climate label.
The participants were then asked whether or not they wanted to know the climate information for the products, 33% said no.
All of the participants were then given the CO2 information and were then asked to make new choices.
For those who said yes to the information, there was a 32% reduction in the climate footprint through their new product choices, and the ‘information avoiders’ collectively reduced their footprint by 12% after being exposed to the climate labelling.
Associate professor Jonas Nordström of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food and Resource Economics, said: ‘Our experiments demonstrate that one out of three people doesn’t want to know the climate impact of the food they eat. But at the same time, we can see that there is a psychological effect when people are informed on its climate impact, in so far as more people end up buying a less CO2 heavy product.
‘Our assumption is that being aware of a product’s climate impact has a psychological cost for the consumer. If someone who enjoys red meat is informed of its climate impact, it may prompt them to feel a bit of shame or have a guilty conscience. By actively opting out of this information, it becomes less uncomfortable to make a choice that would be seen as a climate sin.
‘However, if information about the climate impact is forced upon the consumer, some will opt to buy chicken instead of beef, and in so doing, mitigate some of the negative feelings associated with making a decision that has a greater climate consequence. In our experiment, this resulted in a 12% lower carbon footprint.’
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