Academics at Lancaster University are working with regional retailer Booths to try to reduce shoppers’ carbon footprints.
Food accounts for more than ten per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint. A new collaborative research project led by Lancaster University, and involving family-run Lancashire-based retailer Booths, and environmental experts Small World Consulting, will look at consumers’ buying habits and encourage more environmentally-friendly shopping.
The aim is to develop effective ways of encouraging people to consider the environmental impact of the food they put in their shopping baskets.
Dr Adrian Friday, from Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications, said: “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.”
Over a period of several months, researchers will follow volunteers around the aisles of Booths stores, as well as examining their snacking and take-away purchases, to gain a greater understanding of repeated food buying decisions.
The volunteers will also be given apps to aid list-making and to keep a diary of what they are buying.
Booths are helping the project by allowing the researchers to conduct observations of volunteers shopping in their stores.
In addition Booths are providing access to their buyers so researchers can gain a greater understanding of the restraints retailers face when trying to reduce the carbon footprint of the food they sell.
Edwin Booth, Chairman of Booths, said: “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."
The research is being funded by £214,455 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
The project is being assisted with additional expertise from Small World Consulting, one of 22 businesses located in specialist office facilities at Lancaster University’s Lancaster Environment Centre.
Mike Berners-Lee, Director of Small World Consulting, said: “This is a very interesting project to explore practical ways in which shoppers can be helped to understand more about the life that products have before the reach the shelves – and in particular their carbon emissions.
“It is about finding simple ways to help people to know enough about the food they buy to sustainable shopping possible.”