Climate labels catch on

Let’s label them! Labels signaling the climate or environmental impact of food products have emerged as a potential strategy to promote sustainable food choices in restaurant, cafeteria, and supermarket settings. According to a recent study, climate impact labels on a sample fast food menu influenced participants’ food choices in favor of more climate-friendly items. High-climate-impact labels on burgers increased non-beef choices by 23 percent. Evidence suggests that products labeled as environmentally sustainable may be perceived as healthier as well.

According to one researcher, climate labels are probably most useful in cases when climate-conscious consumers need a reminder nudge, or when climate-conscious consumers lack awareness in the first place. Labeling has become a big issue in the food industry. There are various labels for vegan and kosher just to name a few. For more information on labeling and food shopping see our shopping guide In Pursuit of Great Food.

The restaurant industry has documented increasing consumer demand for vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based items. Several major fast food chain restaurants recently introduced meat-free or meat-alternative menu items, and restaurant industry reports identified increasing sustainability as among the top restaurant menu trends. The climate label adds to other labeling strategies such as the green light, yellow light and red light labels for healthy eating. High–climate-impact labels may easily be adopted in settings like workplaces, universities, hospitals, and other anchor institutions with carbon neutrality commitments.

We’ve written before about the effect meat has on global warming and other environment problems such as water pollution. The climate label has the potential to increase public awareness of the massive impact livestock has on the environment.