Encouraging greener eating with Booths


The Organisations

Booths is a regional retailer based in Lancashire. They have 31 stores located throughout the north of England. Booths remains a family-owned and run business, with fifth generation Edwin Booth, the current Chairman. 


Small World Consulting Limited, based in the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), is a sustainability consultancy focused on climate change.


The Challenge

Food accounts for more than 10% of the UK’s carbon footprint. A collaborative research project, led by Lancaster University, involving Lancashire-based retailer Booths and environmental experts Small World Consulting, looked at consumers’ buying habits and encouraged more environmentally-friendly shopping. The aim was to develop effective ways of encouraging people to consider the environmental impact of the food they put in their shopping baskets.

Expertise Sought

  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Carbon footprint expertise

The Solution

Researchers, led by Dr Adrian Friday and Dr Mike Hazas from the School of Computing and Communication, followed volunteers around the aisles of Booths stores over a period of several months. They also examined their snacking and takeaway purchases, to gain a greater understanding of repeated food buying decisions. The volunteers were given applications to aid list-making and to keep a diary of what they bought.

Booths helped the project by allowing the researchers to conduct observations of volunteers shopping in their stores. In addition, Booths provided access to their buyers so the researchers could gain a greater understanding of the restraints retailers face when trying to reduce the carbon footprint of the food they sell.

The School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University has research expertise in communications and networking, computer systems, intelligent systems, software engineering, and human-computer interaction. 


The research was funded by £214,455 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £800 million a year in a broad range of subjects, from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.


The researchers hope the project will increase awareness of different foods’ carbon footprints, and lead to people having more sustainable diets and living more sustainable lifestyles. “As people think about their diet from a nutritional point of view, we want them to also think about their carbon footprint,” says Dr Adrian Friday.

Benefits to the Company

  • Consolidates Booths’ standing as committed to sustainability and minimising environmental impact
  • Gives Booths the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint by encouraging consumers to buy responsibly

Benefits to the University

  • Increased the university’s knowledge of the environmental impact of people’s regular food buying habits

Benefits to Society

  • Increased awareness of the carbon footprint of food could lead to decreased environmental impact of British people as a whole

Company Feedback 

“We believe retailers have a responsibility to signpost consumers to shop sustainably and encourage them to make the right choices. From the way we design our stores, plan marketing campaigns and train staff, how we source and market products has a consequence, and it’s a great pleasure to support Lancaster University in its research.

“These issues have always been of the utmost importance to Booths and are priorities which we share with our loyal customers, who choose Booths based on our unique sourcing policies and commitment to quality." Edwin Booth, Chairman of Booths.

Researcher Feedback 

“All the food we buy has a carbon cost attached. Some foods have a greater carbon footprint than others, such as fruit flown over from South America, or vegetables grown out of season in hothouses. We are trying to encourage people to choose a lower carbon footprint diet.

“It’s about looking at repeated patterns of consumption over a sustained period and then thinking about how we can help people reflect on their repeated habits and the impact this is having on the environment. As people think about their diet from a nutritional point of view, we want them to also think about their carbon footprint.” Dr Adrian Friday, School of Computing and Communications, Lancaster University.

Future plans

Booths and the university are pursing further research together.