Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Dallas -Fort Worth Metroplex Edition


Carbon Labels Cut Environmental Impact of Dining

Person sitting at table at restaurant looking at menu

Andrea Piacquadio/

Making changes while shopping at supermarkets, restaurants and with delivery apps can change minds about sustainable options and garner public support. Psychologist Ann-Katrin Betz and her colleagues at Germany’s University of Würzburg studied the design of restaurant menus and tested how adding carbon labels indicating the greenhouse gas emissions per dish and changing the most prominent menu items to foods with a lower impact on the climate affected the choices people might make when dining out.

When people were given menus with the low-emission option as the default, the share of high-emission choices decreased by an average of 31.7 percent. When given menus with carbon labels, the emissions associated with their dish choices averaged 13.5 percent lower per dish. Combining carbon labels with prominent placing for low-emission options appears to have the greatest effect.

Other strategies might include increasing the availability of plant-based options; making them more prominent elsewhere (the meat aisle); and renaming veggie options to make them sound more appealing (slow-roasted, butternut squash and seasonal vegetable lasagna versus vegetarian lasagna). Multiple practices are needed to persuade people to adopt sustainable diets, so all of these methods are just the beginning of a shift away from high-emission food by overcoming unconscious barriers.