Climate impact labels could help promote sustainable food choices: study

Read the full story from The Hill.

Labels placed on fast food items highlighting their high climate impact may sway consumers to make more sustainable choices, new study results show. 

Food accounts for around one-third of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, while animal-based foods like red meat and dairy products make up a large proportion of these emissions. 

Researchers carried out a randomized clinical trial with more than 5,000 participants to determine whether calling attention to red meat’s climate impact could change consumer menu selections. 

Individuals were shown a sample online fast food menu and asked to select an item for dinner. 

A control group received a menu with a quick response code label on all items and no climate labels. Another group received a menu with green low-climate impact labels, positively framing options like fish, chicken, or vegetarian options. The third group received a menu with red high-climate labels on items containing red meat, negatively framing the options. 

Results showed 23 percent more participants in the high climate label group ordered a sustainable, non-red meat option, and 10 percent more in the low-climate group ordered a sustainable option, compared with controls.

Why sustainability and product superiority must go together for consumers

Read the full story from the Consumer Good Forum.

After speaking at this year’s Sustainable Retail Summit, Guillaume Lebert, P&G Sustainability Director explains why superior performing products, that are environmentally sustainable is the winning formula that’s irresistible for consumer choices.

Energy-insecure households sometimes use risky coping strategies to keep lights, heat on

Read the full story from Indiana University.

More than half of all low-income households engaged in coping strategies to reduce their energy bills, according to a study from researchers at the Indiana University Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The coping strategies, such as accruing debt, forgoing expenses on food, and using space heaters or ovens to warm their home, can introduce significant physical and financial risks.

The research could have direct implications for public policy improvements, including modifications to the U.S. Weatherization Assistance Program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and state utility disconnection protections.

The article, “Behavioral and financial coping strategies among energy-insecure households,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was written by professor Sanya Carley, Lynton K. Caldwell Professor David Konisky and Ph.D. candidate Trevor Memmott, all in the O’Neill School, and Cleveland State assistant professor Michelle Graff, a former grad student of Carley and Konisky.

Do eco-labels on menus influence sustainable food choices?

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

Researchers want to know whether placing a traffic light rating of eco-friendliness next to dishes on a menu increases the likelihood of diners choosing more sustainable options.

Keep it or toss it? ‘Best Before’ labels cause confusion

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

As awareness grows around the world about the problem of food waste, one culprit in particular is drawing scrutiny: “best before” labels.

Manufacturers have used the labels for decades to estimate peak freshness. Unlike “use by” labels, which are found on perishable foods like meat and dairy, “best before” labels have nothing to do with safety and may encourage consumers to throw away food that’s perfectly fine to eat.

Danone discusses food waste in the home: ‘Changing consumer behaviour can be challenging and takes time’

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

Roughly a third of the food produced globally each year is wasted. In Europe, the majority of waste occurs in the home. How can the food industry influence waste that occurs outside its direct sphere of control? FoodNavigator hears from Amy McDonnell, Social Innovation & Sustainability Manager at Danone UK & Ireland.

Surging sales of large gasoline pickups and SUVs are undermining carbon reductions from electric cars

Pickup trucks for sale at a Michigan dealership. John DeCicco, CC BY-ND

by John DeCicco, University of Michigan

Replacing petroleum fuels with electricity is crucial for curbing climate change because it cuts carbon dioxide emissions from transportation – the largest source of U.S. global warming emissions and a growing source worldwide. Even including the impacts of generating electricity to run them, electric vehicles provide clear environmental benefits.

Plug-in vehicles are making great progress, with their share of U.S. car and light truck sales jumping from 2% to 4% in 2020-2021 and projected to exceed 6% by the end of 2022. But sales of gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs are also surging. This other face of the market subverts electric cars’ carbon-cutting progress.

As a researcher who studies transportation and climate change, it’s clear to me that EVs provide large carbon reductions that will grow as the electric grid shifts to carbon-free energy. But fleetwide emissions, including vehicles of all types and ages, are what ultimately matters for the climate.

While the latest policy advances will speed the transition to EVs, actual emission reductions could be hastened by tightening greenhouse gas emissions standards, especially for the larger gasoline-powered personal trucks that dominate transportation’s carbon footprint. Because it takes 20 years to largely replace the on-road automobile fleet, gas vehicles bought today will still be driving and emitting carbon dioxide in 2040 and beyond.

California has adopted regulations that will phase out sales of new cars powered only by gasoline in the state by 2035, a shift that is expected to drive similar policies in other states.

Public policy progress

Plugging in rather than pumping gas reduces both global warming and smog-forming pollution. It avoids the ecological harm of petroleum production and reduces the economic and security risks of a world oil market coupled to totalitarian regimes such as those of Russia and in the Middle East.

On the good news front, automakers are offering ever more EV choices and promising all-electric fleets within 15 years or so. Two recent policy developments will help turn such promises into reality.

One is California’s recent update to its zero-emission vehicle program. The new regulations will require that by 2035, 100% of new light vehicles sold in California must be qualifying zero-emission vehicles, allowing for a limited number of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Other states that historically have adopted California’s emission standards may follow its lead, so cars running only on gasoline could ultimately be banned across 40% of the U.S. new car market.

In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed by President Biden includes new incentives for EVs and subsidies for domestic production of EVs, batteries and critical minerals. The new policy targets incentives in several ways, disqualifying high-income consumers, capping the price of qualifying vehicles, providing incentives for used EVs, and restricting the tax credits to EVs built in the U.S. and Canada. It complements the US$7.5 billion for building a national EV charging network authorized by the infrastructure bill that the Biden administration brokered in 2021.

The consumption conundrum

In spite of rapidly growing sales, however, EVs have not yet measurably cut carbon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data indicates that the rate of carbon dioxide reduction from new vehicles has all but stalled, while vehicle mass and power have reached all-time highs.

Why? The surging popularity of low-fuel-economy pickups and SUVs. My analysis of the EPA data shows that through 2021, the higher emissions from market shifts to larger, more powerful vehicles swamp the potential carbon dioxide reductions from EVs by more than a factor of three.

Including the largest personal pickup trucks, which are omitted from the EPA’s public data, would further increase the gasoline vehicle emissions that overwhelm EV carbon reductions. Because vehicles remain on the road for so long, excessive emissions from popular but under-regulated pickups and SUVs will harm the climate for many years.

Complications of clean-car rules

A reason for this conundrum is that clean-car standards are averaged across the overall fleets of cars and light trucks that automakers sell. When a manufacturer increases its sales of EVs and other high-efficiency vehicles, it can sell a greater number of less fuel-efficient vehicles while still meeting regulatory requirements.

The standards are structured in several ways that further weaken their effectiveness. The targets an automaker has to meet get weaker if it makes its vehicles larger. Vehicles classified as light trucks – including four-wheel-drive and large SUVs, as well as vans and pickups – are held to weaker standards than those classified as cars.

What’s worse, a regulatory loophole allows the largest pickups to effectively evade meaningful carbon constraints. Such vehicles are classified as “work trucks” even though they are sold and priced as luxury personal vehicles. An ongoing horsepower war gives these massive “suburban cowboy” trucks capabilities far beyond those of the relatively spartan pickups once used by cost-conscious businesses.

Toward faster emission reductions

In spite of falling prices and rising sales, electric cars still face hurdles before they can fully sweep the market. The time it takes to charge an electric car may remain an inconvenience for many consumers. For example, commonly available Level 2 chargers take four to 10 hours to fully recharge an EV battery.

Buying an EV requires consumers to consider where and how quickly they want to charge their car.

Such obstacles make it unclear whether the car market can move as quickly to an all-electric future as some hope.

Emissions could be cut more quickly if regulators reform clean car standards to close the loopholes that allow excess emissions. California is taking a step in this direction by revising its methods for determining new fleet emission limits for gasoline vehicles. Also hopeful is the recent joint announcement by General Motors and the Environmental Defense Fund, which notes the need to address the large light trucks as part of new standards targeting a 60% reduction in fleetwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

As the world transitions to EVs, their size and energy use will matter, too. Massive EVs will require large batteries, and hence more critical minerals whose supplies are limited. They will demand more electricity that, even if renewable, is not fully free of environmental impacts. Sustainability will suffer if the roads are ruled more by the likes of Hummer EVs rather than Tesla Model 3s.

Policymakers and environmental organizations have mounted major promotional campaigns in support of EVs. But there are no similar efforts to encourage consumers to choose the most efficient vehicle that meets their needs. Significant numbers of Americans now believe that global warming is for real and of concern. Connecting such beliefs to everyday vehicle purchases is a missing link in clean-car strategy.

These sobering car market trends highlight the risk of letting visions of an all-electric future mask the need for better decisions today – by policymakers, consumers and automakers – to more quickly reduce emissions across the entire vehicle fleet.

This piece updates an article originally published on January 28, 2021.

John DeCicco, Research Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Beyond the Plastic Bag: Sparking a Seachange for Reuse

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While we know the greenest bag is the one a customer already owns, and the Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag is advancing research and testing to increase instances of customers bringing their own bags, the focus of this report is specific to the testing of reusable bag systems undertaken in summer 2021. We share our learnings from conducting first-of-a-kind reusable bag pilots across select CVS Health, Target and Walmart stores, where customers could “borrow” a bag and use it multiple times before returning it at the same or a different brand’s store to be washed, redistributed and reused by other customers.

Citizens disillusioned about progress on corporate sustainability, poll finds

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

A major polling exercise has revealed widespread skepticism among consumers towards corporations’ sustainability programs, as well as concern over whether products marketed as environmentally sustainable are guilty of “greenwash.”

Interviews with 19,000 people in eight countries found that 70 percent of people are disillusioned about corporate progress towards sustainability goals and suspicious of potential greenwashing activity by businesses.

The research, published by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), found that sustainability is a major concern for citizens of the U.S., Germany, Italy, France, Japan, China, India and Brazil, with four out of five participants in the study reporting they considered sustainability when making day-to-day purchases.

But this heightened concern is not necessarily translating into action, according to the findings, which reveal that just 20 percent of consumers believe they can have a positive impact on the environment through their purchases.

Climate change gets personal

Read the full story at Food Business News.

Consumers are placing the health of the planet ahead of the health of the population on their list of concerns, according to Innova Market Insights. The market researcher’s annual Lifestyle and Attitude Survey found 55% of shoppers in the United States and Canada are engaged in actions to help the environment.

Product launches carrying sustainability claims are growing at three times the pace of total food and beverage activity, according to Innova.