Dish on menu carbon emissions data can promote climate-friendly choices among diners: study


  • Estimates suggest that a third of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are food-related.
  • A recent study found that a dish’s carbon footprint could influence diners’ orders if greenhouse gas emissions were on the menu.
  • The study suggests that restaurant owners could use carbon labels and low emissions as default options to reduce their business’ carbon footprint.

Estimates suggest that a third of global human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are food-related. While better and more efficient food production, processing and storage technologies are the need of the hour, consumer behavior also plays a crucial role. Fortunately, more and more people are becoming environmentally conscious and concerned about food miles and emissions from what’s on their plate.

Now, a new study has found that a dish’s carbon footprint could influence diners’ orders if greenhouse gas emissions were on the menu.

Climate-friendly default options and labels showing the carbon footprint of each dish can influence diners’ food choices and the resulting environmental benefits, according to the study by a team of German scientists.

“If we want more climate-friendly restaurant visits, highlighting the components of dishes on a menu can really be an important setting because it communicates what is normal and recommended. It’s also perhaps one of the easiest things for restaurateurs to do,” the study authors said.

Even previous research has shown that an individual’s food choices significantly affect their personal carbon footprint. However, most of these studies, which examine factors influencing environmentally friendly food choices, have primarily focused on shopping habits in terms of groceries eaten at home and not foods ordered from home. outdoors in restaurants.

In this study, Ann-Katrin Betz and her colleagues tested two design approaches: i) menus with carbon labels indicating the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with each dish; ii) menus highlighting dishes whose components could be modified to use low- or high-emitting ingredients.

The team then created nine hypothetical menus to test these hypotheses, which varied in cuisine, presence of modifiable dishes, climate-friendliness of the default options and presence of carbon labels, with 256 volunteers. Statistical analysis of the results showed that participants selected more climate-friendly dishes when carbon labels were present.

Diners also opted for low-emission options over high-emission options, even when they could change the order. An example of such a dish was a salad that could be ordered with high-emission beef, medium-emission shawarma, or low-emission falafel.

The study’s findings suggest that restaurant operators could use both carbon labels and low emissions as default options in an effort to reduce their business’ carbon footprint.

The study was published this week in the journal PLOS Climate and is accessible
here.

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