Fighting Climate Change at the Market
Fighting Climate Change at the Market

Tesco's carbon footprint labelWith the possible exception of alternative-fuel vehicles, food choices are
perhaps the most obvious front in the battle for a greener lifestyle.

But while many supermarket chains are still getting wise to the consumer
appeal (and PR benefits) of local food, organic options, and energy-efficient stores,
one British company is taking the lead in helping consumers make
informed grocery-buying decisions. And this time, they’re not just focusing on the wellness of the
eater, but the health of the entire planet.

In an effort to draw attention to the environmental impact of various grocery products, Tesco is test-marketing a new label that measures a products carbon footprint. The new label goes beyond
the sometimes-oversimplified measure of food-miles, taking the entire
product lifecycle into consideration. According to the company, the label tells consumers “how many grams of carbon or equivalent greenhouse gases
were emitted as a result of growing, manufacturing, transporting and
storing a product. It also considers the impact of preparing or using a
product and then disposing of any waste.” Label data are based on calculations by the Carbon Trust, a private enterprise set up by the British government in 2001 to develop low-carbon technologies.

The initial test focuses on store-brand products in four broad
categories: Potatoes, orange juice, laundry detergent, and light bulbs.
Although the labels are limited to store-brand items, they cross
categories — frozen OJ versus refrigerated cartons, fresh spuds versus
packaged, liquid versus powdered soap.

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