Restaurants Can Through Menus Lower Carbon Footprint

Better The Diet For A Relaxed Mind

One-third of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are linked to food. No doubt, better and more efficient food production, processing and storage technologies are needed. Apart from this, the restaurants can also play a major role by helping consumers choose the menu that comes with a lower carbon footprint.
A recent study by a team of German scientists claimed that changing menu design might result in considerable positive effects. “Carbon labels that provide information about products’ GHG emissions have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of consumer choices,” they said.
In the study, the researchers said that there was clear evidence that defaults increase the share of climate-friendly dish choices and decrease the GHG impact of dining when a climate-friendly dish is set as the default. They explained that sticking to defaults might result from psychological inertia. Accordingly, people who are indifferent about their dish choices would most likely choose the dish that is most readily available. Switching the default component from a beef to a vegetable patty in a burger menu can reduce the carbon footprint of customers who usually order “just a burger,” without having the customers change their actual behaviour, the study said.
The researchers noted that defaults might be more attention grabbing or salient than other options. In menus with a salient dish option (e.g., the one placed at the top, typed in a bigger font, or with a picture of the dish), a customer’s attention is directed to this option more than to the others so that it receives over proportionate weighing in subsequent decision-making, they added.


The researchers did the study among 265 participants, who were given menus of nine different restaurants and had to choose exactly one dish per menu. Ann-Katrin Betz and colleagues tested two design approaches: i) menus with carbon labels indicating the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with each dish; ii) menus show casing dishes with components that could be modified to use ingredients with low or high emissions.
In six menus, the main dishes were presented with different default options: the side dish was associated either with the highest or with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. The other three menus consisted of unitary dishes for which the default rules did not apply. All menus were presented either with or without carbon labels for each dish option.
“’If we want more climate-friendly restaurant visits, highlighting dish components on a menu can really be an important parameter because it communicates what is normal and recommended. It may also be one of the easiest things restaurant owners can do,” the authors of the study said.
The study also says that an individual’s food choice affect their personal carbon footprint. However, most of these studies focused mainly on purchasing habits in terms of groceries eaten at home and not food ordered outside in restaurants.


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