Climate-friendly meals look more appetising to informed diners

More of us would be tucking into climate-friendly food if enough information were given about it, according to research from Finland.

Smiling waitress holding two plates of salads

A trial conducted in 25 restaurants in Helsinki has shown that people are receptive to choosing meals based on their carbon cost.

The findings came to light after researchers added two “Climate Choice” meals to the menu in the Finnish eateries, advertising the food and its environmental credentials in a variety of ways.

The two meals were a meat free and a non meat free dish, whose ingredients were respectively 30 and 15 per cent less costly in terms of harmful emissions than those of an average meal. The cost disparity highlights that meat free eating is by far the better choice for those interested in protecting our planet.

The emissions maths factored in the carbon cost of producing and processing ingredients, as well as how they were packaged, transported and cooked.

Questioned after tucking into their food, two-fifths of respondents said they would choose a Climate Choice meal “often”, while over half (54 per cent) opted for “now and then”.

The researchers found that customers typically chose the climate-friendly meal because they thought it would be a healthier choice and so propose that marketing should link climate change and health impact, thereby helping diners take action on an individual level.

Europe is already in the vanguard of climate change action: a European Environment Agency report published last month said within five years emissions on the continent may have been slashed by a quarter on 1990 levels, “meeting and overachieving” its 2020 target of 20 per cent.

Between a fifth and a third of Europe’s consumption-related greenhouse gas emissions stem from food and drink, making the question of what we choose to eat and drink a vitally important one for the health of the planet.

Read the report