How climate-friendly are your food at UBC? Labels encourage more sustainable food choices and change the way we eat, according to recent studies.
This first UBC Climate -Friendly Food System Label research project was carried out in three main phases from Summer 2021 to May 2022 where the research teams tested different icon iterations’ impact on the UBC community behaviour.
Phase 1: The 3 tiered colour system (red, yellow, green) has been tested in the first phase (August to September 2021) at Mercante pizzeria on the UBC Vancouver campus as a first icon to indicate the climate-friendliness of a meal (Graphic design by Helen Eady, Creative Co).
Pilot 2: A traffic-light system has been developed for the second phase (October to January 2022) at Mercante pizzeria and Open Kitchen managed by Food Services as a second icon to measure impact of food choice on student behaviour. Here is the poster that has been developed as complementary information to give to inform UBC Community on the CFFS Label purpose (Graphic design by Helen Eady, Creative Co).
Phase 3: A single happy planet icon (Graphic design by Mallory Lupick) focusing only on a positive message has been selected thought 3 side-by-side concept mock-ups to represent the UBC Climate-Friendly Food System Label from February to June 2022. Two UBC dinning halls located in campus residences participated in the study. One was the treatment location, while the other was a control site.
A food meal labeled with the happy planet icon means that this food menu item has at least a 50% lower environmental footprint per 100 grams than other items.
SEEDS pilot project phase 3 tested in collaboration with Food Services at Open Kitchen dining hall, 2022 (Photo credit: Laure Dupuy).
This project shows how people from different backgrounds and expertise can work together towards the same goal, promoting the Climate-Friendly Food Systems at UBC.
In light of the climate emergency, for most of those consulted as well as the observed sales results, most of UBC community want to be more informed about the environmental impact of our food choices.
A simple, easy-to-understand label icon showing colour range seems to be the right direction to take on UBC’s campus as a next step to expend the Climate-Friendly Food System (CFFS) Label.
Yu Luo, PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at UBC
Yu Luo work under the supervision of Dr. Jiaying Zhao, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at UBC and the Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Sustainability for the CFFS Label Evaluation research.
Background and interests
Yu Luo is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at UBC. His research focuses on applying behavior insights to address environmental issues (e.g., plastic pollution, and climate change)
Yu Luo plan to continue collaborating with academic, industry, and government partners to conduct research on mitigating environmental issues.
He learned about the Climate-Friendly Food System (CFFS) Label project from his supervisor, Jiaying, since I have led many environmental projects in his lab.
The CFFS label project aligned with the topic of his PhD dissertation. His dissertation focuses on how to use Behavioural interventions to tackle environmental issues. Implementing CFFS labels to change consumers’ food choices on campus perfectly matched his dissertation.
“This project gave me a great opportunity to test out behavioral interventions in a real-world context and the findings of this project can contribute to solving a real challenge at UBC as I led the field experiments and online surveys in Phases 1 and 2 of the project” said Yu Luo.
On the phase 1 and phase 2, findings showed that the majority of survey’s participants were supporting the implementation of the CFFS Label on UBC campus and the results showed that adding a label to a menu item shifted participants’ food choices from high GHG emission food to low GHG emission food.
CFFS Label impact & next steps
According to Yu Luo: “If we implement the CFFS label at all food services locations on campus, we will see a large reduction in GHG emissions from food systems at UBC. Ideally, I hope that we can implement the CFFS Label in all restaurants at UBC, even at private food providers on campus that are not part of UBC Food services.
The SEEDS team and all our partners were very supportive throughout the project. They helped us find the key contact person for a specific request, implement the CFFS Label at various locations, and extract the sales data that we needed. It was fantastic to work with a team in which everyone shares the same vision and works toward the same goal“.
Finally, Yu Luo conclude on the following benefits he get from this SEEDS research community-based collaboration: “With this SEEDS opportunity, I had a chance to work with a large team. It helped me gain communication and team skills. Importantly, this project gave me an opportunity to test out behavioral interventions outside a laboratory context“.