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Ethical Sceptic

Jun 16

Written by:
16/06/2008 17:04  RssIcon

Why you'll never look at a packet of crisps the same way again.

The new Carbon Trust labelling scheme is intended to give consumers an indication of the product's overall carbon footprint. Early adopters included Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps and Innocent smoothies. How useful such information is, is a matter of debate.


A while back Tesco announced they intended to carbon label all its products, without getting into specifics. The Carbon Trust worked with Walkers for two years on their Cheese and Onion crisps so what does that say about carbon labelling a whole supermarket!?


To be fair the Carbon Trust's project was blazing a trail and working out the methodology so we might expect similar projects in the future to speed up somewhat. The Co-op is trial running the concept on a single item - strawberries - and Co-op Head of Ethics Paul Monaghan made the point: "we've found it invaluable in understanding where the carbon hotspots are in our products' lifecycle, and therefore being able to target big reductions."


Perhaps it's here then, rather than at a consumer label, that the value of such product footprinting lies. It's difficult to see how consumers are going to be able to put this information into practice - for a start it relies on enough products being footprinted with the same methodology for people to make meaningful choices.


What the label really does bring into focus is how carbon intensive current products are when compared to the level of personal carbon footprint we'd have in a truly sustainable world. UK per capita emissions are 11 tonnes a year - if we put into practice the 80% emission cuts Friends of the Earth and other informed opinion says we must that gives us 2.2 tonnes a year.


As the Ethical Skeptic puts it, on these figures: "a sustainable diet would allow you two smoothies and two packets of crisps a day before virtually all your allowance was used up. Could you live on that?" for thought



1 comment(s) so far...

Re: Ethical Sceptic

It just goes to show that truly sustinable consumption and our current system are mutually exclusive - I've looked at the carbon label website and to qualify products also have to go through a lifecycle analysis and cut their emissions - so the smoothy and Walker's crisps are actually going to be less carbon-heavy than other versions on the market - and they still can't fit into a sustainable diet if we're going to cut to fair shares of the carbon budget - i.e. the 2.2 t that contraction and convergence demands. Lets stop pretending we can tinker round the edges, we need locally grown food for as mcuh as possible.

By Bob Dobbs on   25/06/2008 08:32


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