Nutrition facts and ingredient lists are ways of amending the sticker price of an items: that margarine/other product may be cheap monetarily, but it may also cost your health down the road.
We depend on nutrition labels to inform us of more complex costs, which are framed in contexts of both long-term and short, health and medical care and energy and appearance. But there are those, myself included, who think they could be improved in a major way. Nutrition labels, are, after all, kind of a crock if they are peddling that Sprite is in any way a “natural” beverage. Additionally, most labels lack enough details on an important factor: the hidden cost to the environment.
It’s a confusing task to be sure: there are the questions of local vs. imported, in-season here or out of season somewhere else. Pesticides vs. shortages. Train vs. plane. But we think that there’s no harm in more information, one which adds definition to the “true” cost of an item, and can lead to a more informed decision (and maybe even promote some change in industry practices). Below, some redesigned labels with the purpose of giving carbon emissions a value that we can choose to reduce.
Check back in a couple weeks for a mock-up of our own.
We like this label submitted for Designmatters and Good’s competition, Rethink The Food Label. Especially that designer Carlos Esparaza defined the food as a “whole food”; it seems like every major dietary book and nutritional authority ends their spiel with “eat more whole foods, and get some sun you cave dweller!”. Labeling in this detailed manner helps people figure out where the line between whole food and kinda-modified-ish food begins. We also like that it says how many ingredients are in it. Usually, less is better in terms of the product being more natural, though any amazing curry will beg to differ, so we wouldn’t rely too heavily on numbers. That said, something with like, 50 ingredients is more likely to contain a few Yellow 7s and Blue 42s.
The Carbon Reduction Label
The Carbon Trust goes through a pretty extensive process, tracking the raw materials, production method, distance travelled, and packaging to determine the total carbon emissions of a product per serving—the label below is for a garment, but many of their labels appear on food. We like that products which have earned this label are also certified to be making an effort to reduce their emissions (and if there isn’t discernable progress in two years, the label is revoked.) We like the simplicity of the label, and that it, like a price tag, yields a simple numeral where more is bad and less is good, which certainly streamlines the decision making process.
We also like that although the standards are thorough, the label focuses on just one goal: reducing carbon. So even if a product is produced locally in one place, but requires a lot of resources because it’s out of season, it might turn out to release more emissions than something transported by plane.
The Global Warming Diet
This mock up is from Laura Stec and Eugene Cordero’s book, The Global Warming Diet, an examination of our diet’s impact on the environment. We like the addition of point of origin and mode of transportation to illustrate what is meant exactly by that particular carbon calculation.