Call Made for Carbon Labels
Solutions for addressing greenhouse gases and climate change
abound and a group of researchers writing in the journal Nature Climate
a suggestion, as well. Institute carbon labeling on consumer products.
authors of the article, Michael Vandenbergh of Vanderbilt University Law School, Thomas
Dietz of Michigan State University and Paul Stern of the National Research
Council, wrote that energy use in household dwellings accounts for 38 percent
of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. While the authors said household purchases
of durable and consumable goods could not be precisely determined at the moment, "Even
modest changes in the household sector could significantly reduce emissions."
argument goes that a large group of consumers are interested in buying more
environmentally friendly products. (An eight country survey in 2008 found 33
percent of consumers have or are ready to buy "green" products.)
Consumers are also comfortable with labels on the products they buy for household
According to the Nature Climate Change article, "It
is not reasonable to expect labelling to solve a complex problem by radically
shifting the behaviour of most or all consumers. It is reasonable, however,
to expect that labelling may improve a consumer’s ability to make choices and
may induce firms to change the mix of products offered to consumers. Nutritional
labelling, for example, has not eliminated diet-related health problems, but
labels do influence product selection and consumption in some cases."
authors do not make light of the difficulty in assessing the carbon footprint
of products, acknowledging that to be of utmost value, labels must track the
full life-cycle of a product. Finding a label that works across borders is
also seen as a need that is not currently being addressed.
In late 2007, Tesco
announced it was beginning a two-year trial of a carbon footprint program by
labeling 20 store branded items from four categories including detergents,
orange juice, potatoes and light bulbs. Since then, the British chain, working
with the non-profit Carbon Trust, has expanded the program to include over
100 own-brand items. Other companies using the carbon reduction label in the
U.K. include Dyson, Kingsmill (baker), Morphy Richards (clothing irons) and
Walkers (snack division of Pepsico).
- Time to try carbon labeling – Nature Climate Change
- Carbon labels for consumer products urged – UPI.com
- Tesco: leading the way in green consumption – Carbon Trust
- Which products are reducing their carbon footprint? – Carbon Trust
Discussion Questions: Is the time right for carbon labeling? Is this an endeavor for an industry organization, for-profit supplier or independent non-governmental organization of some type?