Carbon labeling good for consumers and business

31 March 2011 Science News

Carbon labeling good for consumers and business

Want to know how many calories are in a serving from that box of cereal? Simply turn it over and you can read a wealth of information: calories, fat, fiber, nutrients. But what if you'd like to know how much carbon was emitted to produce your breakfast? Currently, you're out of luck. But an article in Nature Climate Change argues that labeling products-from food to household products-with their carbon footprint could reduce emissions over time as consumers and companies react to better environmental transparency. A 'carbon footprint' measures the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted to produce a product or service.

"Even modest changes in the household sector could significantly reduce emissions. A carbon-labeling program could reduce carbon emissions in two ways: By influencing consumer choices and by encouraging firms to identify efficiencies throughout the supply chain," wrote Thomas Dietz, a professor of sociology with Michigan State University's Environmental Science and Policy Program.

The biggest stumbling block for consumers, according to the paper, is not a desire to make greener choices but a dearth in information.

"Providing information would lower this barrier, allowing consumers to make more informed choices without substantial effort," explains Dietz

Carbon labeling would not only better inform consumers of their choices, but could also help companies save money by finding ways to run their business more efficiently and to be rewarded by consumers for their efforts. Such labeling could also bypass government sluggishness on climate change, as "private carbon-labeling program for consumer products could help fill the policy gap".

According to the paper, carbon labeling will not fix climate change, but it will help move society in the right direction.

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