1Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada, 2Department of Biological Sciences, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada, 3Department of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada, 4Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast, Australia.
The agri-food system is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, and its contribution is projected to grow significantly in coming years. Consumers can drive system change and help mitigate the climate crisis through demand behavior, with youth uniquely positioned as key actors. Carbon labelling offers a tool for informing consumers about the carbon footprint of food, and thereby promoting purchase of lower-carbon products. This cross-cultural study (n=815) sought to investigate perceptions of carbon labels on food amongst youth (18-24 yrs.) from two medium-high CO2-emitting countries in the Americas – Canada and Argentina. Using a mixed methods online survey approach that integrates a quantitative questionnaire with open response questions, we found knowledge deficits in familiarity with the concepts ‘carbon footprint’ and especially ‘carbon label’, and these varied with country, gender, and level of education. Further, exemplars of six food carbon labels, standardized for the carbon emissions information displayed, differed for scores of usefulness, clarity, understanding, confusion, and incomprehensibility. Labels also differed in their relative preference ratings, which varied with education level, with the ‘Traffic light horizontal scale’ the most preferred overall. Our findings inform carbon label design and emissions-related education initiatives, each of which should be optimised for different segments of the youth market in order to effectively promote consumption of lower-carbon foods.
Keywords: carbon label, pro-environmental behaviour, young adults, consumer behaviour, Canada, Argentina