Sustainable supermarket choices reduce grocery emissions by 71%

New research supports widespread calls for carbon labelling on food packaging to help consumers make more environmentally-friendly decisions. 

people walking on market during nighttime

The George Institute for Global Health and Imperial College London’s School of Public Health conducted the analysis with a focus on grocery shoppers in Australia. This is the largest every study of its kind. 

Originally published in Nature Food, the results showed that making simple swaps – for example opting for a frozen vegetarian lasagne over meat – can cut associated emissions by up to 71%. Overall, emissions for 7,000 households were projected with more than 22,000 individual products assigned to ‘major’, ‘minor’, and sub-categories of food, quantifying emissions by switching within and between types. 

Switching within the same sub-category can bring down emissions by 26%, while making a different choice from within a minor category could help greenhouse gas output drop by 71%. This is particularly significant given around one-third of global emissions can be attributed to food and agriculture. Combined environmental and public health costs from this are estimated at between $10trillion and $14trillion annually. A new app has been produced by The George Institute, ecoSwitch, which is currently available to shoppers in Australia, helping them make more informed choices.

‘Dietary habits need to change significantly if we are to meet global emissions targets, particularly in high-income countries like Australia, the UK, and US. Consumers are willing to make more sustainable food choices, but lack reliable information to identify the more environmentally-friendly options,’ said Dr Allison Gaines, an epidemiologist and lead author of the study. 

‘This shows that incorporating sustainability targets in national food policies could directly contribute towards reaching global environmental goals, without burdening consumers. This is why we are urgently calling for robust legislation that targets high-emission food products,’ added Research Fellow Dr Paraskevi Seferidi, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. 

More on climate change and net zero: 

Gen Alpha, Gen Z demand green spaces and robot litter pickers

WATCH: Nature recovery plan guide for renewable energy sites

10 ways organisations can protect themselves from extreme weather

Image: Hobi industri


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