Tesco Labels Food with Carbon Footprint

In Feburary the New Yorker looked into the complexity of carbon footprint labeling of food, and the article spent a lot of time looking at Tesco’s efforts. The most important point from that article (I think) is that it sometimes makes environmental sense to eat food shipped from other parts of the world. Eating locally is not always the best thing to do.

For British consumers eating environmentally will be easier now. Tesco is about to test their carbon labelling program. One of Tesco’s goals in doing this is to create an industry standard.

The retailer will put carbon-count labels on varieties of orange juice, potatoes, energy-efficient light bulbs and washing detergent, stating the quantity in grammes of CO2 equivalent put into the atmosphere by their manufacture and distribution.

Chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said: “We will give the carbon content of the product and the category average.” The labels should eventually allow shoppers to compare carbon costs in the same way they can now compare salt and calorie content.

The UK’s biggest supermarket first announced its intention to put carbon counts on up to 70,000 products some 15 months ago. It has since been working with the Carbon Trust to find an accurate method of labelling. “It has not been simple, but we are there,” said Leahy yesterday. Tesco will unveil the details of the scheme shortly, and the chief executive said he hoped the labels “will end up being a standard”.

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