Public engagement on food’s climate impact
This paper, co-authored by FCRN member Christian Reynolds, discusses public engagement at the authors’ ‘Take a Bite Out of Climate Change’ stand, which used infographics, short games and displays of vertical farming and insect-based foods to encourage discussion about the climate impacts of food production.
Nearly 7000 people engaged with the stand over the course of two events. Around 1% of the stand visitors completed a questionnaire. All questionnaire respondents said they had learned something from the stand, with commonly mentioned topics including the carbon footprint of food, eating seasonally or locally, the environmental impacts of food choices, and aeroponics. Behaviour changes that respondents said they were most likely to engage in after visiting the stand include eating less meat and eating foods that cause lower emissions.
Food systems contribute to up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions are increasing. Since the emissions vary greatly between different foods, citizens’ choices can make a big difference to climate change. Public engagement events are opportunities to communicate these complex issues: to raise awareness about the impact of citizens’ own food choices on climate change and to generate support for changes in all food system activities, the food environment and food policy. This article summarises findings from our ‘Take a Bite Out of Climate Change’ stand at two UK outreach activities during July 2019. We collected engagement information in three main ways: (1) individuals were invited to complete a qualitative evaluation questionnaire comprising of four questions that gauged the person’s interests, perceptions of food choices and attitudes towards climate change; (2) an online multiple-choice questionnaire asking about eating habits and awareness/concerns; and (3) a token drop voting activity where visitors answered the question: ‘Do you consider greenhouse gases when choosing food?’ Our results indicate whether or not people learnt about the environmental impacts of food (effectiveness), how likely they are to move towards a more climate-friendly diet (behavioural change), and how to gather information more effectively at this type of event.
Kluczkovski, A., Cook, J., Downie, H.F., Fletcher, A., McLoughlin, L., Markwick, A., Bridle, S.L., Reynolds, C.J., Schmidt Rivera, X., Martindale, W., Frankowska, A., Moraes, M. M., Birkett, A. J., Summerton, S., Green, R., Fennell, J. T., Smith, P., Ingram, J., Langley, I., Yates, L. and Ajagun-Brauns, J. (2020). Interacting with Members of the Public to Discuss the Impact of Food Choices on Climate Change—Experiences from Two UK Public Engagement Events. Sustainability, 12(6), p.2323.
Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.