August 05, 2022 — Researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have developed and tested a pilot app to help consumers assess their shopping choices and offer new insights into the impact of certain foods.
“For example, many participants said the app opened their eyes to the high emissions associated with cheese,” says Shreya Sood, who developed the index with Ruta Jumite.
She adds that the app has helped people question their assumptions about certain protein sources.
“Overall, users of the pilot felt it could help translate sustainability goals into action. This motivated them to consistently make sustainable choices and created incentives to eat in a climate-friendly way,” says Sood.
Blockchain for good
The study is part of the EU-ATARCA project, which aims to create and promote “anti-rival tokens”, a blockchain-based technology that encourages the sharing of digital goods.
Blockchain technologies can be used to reward individual choices, the researchers point out. In the long term, they indicate that these tools could provide decision-makers with a way to recognize the constructive impact of individuals on sustainability.
In line with the study, design researchers from Aalto’s Creative Sustainability Program have developed a “Food Wellbeing Index” to capture the social, environmental, health and economic consequences of food choices.
The index incorporates multiple variables to provide a holistic view that reflects the impact of food choices on sustainability. In the long term, the integrity and transparency of this information can be supported by the use of blockchain throughout the supply chain, the researchers point out.
Piloting the app in restaurants in Helsinki
Integrating key food impact information into an app gives consumers clear and actionable insights, as found in a pilot study conducted at Unicafe restaurants at the University of Helsinki.
“For curious vegan participants, the index prompted them to rethink their meal choices after seeing the impact on various variables, making them feel empowered to make a positive change,” Shood comments.
“Vegan participants, on the other hand, felt appreciated for their default choices.”
In addition to giving users information to guide their individual decision, the app also uses anti-rival blockchain tokens and a distributed ledger to measure and aggregate choices, showing users how individual actions add up to an effect. collective.
Because the app’s aggregated data reflects the food choices and aspirations of the community, the researchers note that it can be used to identify gaps and gaps that need to be addressed through health-focused policymaking. sustainability.
The Food Futures research team plans to conduct a second pilot experiment in the fall.
Crystallize the impact of food
Although consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental and health impacts of their food choices, many people are unsure what changes they should make, note the Aalto University researchers.
“People often feel like they don’t have enough information to guide their decisions, and it’s also hard to see the impact of individual consumption habits,” they point out.
Over the past year, consumer-facing platforms to improve visibility of the impact of the food supply – such as carbon labels on packaging – have come to light as consumers increasingly demand of transparency.
Earlier this year, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium (Consorzio del Parmigiano Reggiano) teamed up with Dutch cheese brand designer Kaasmerk Matec and digital tracking developer p-Chip Corporation to integrate traceable silicon microchips – the size of a grain of salt – directly in food. safe parmesan casein label placed on cheese wheels.
Separately, PepsiCo is testing Security Matters’ technology – an invisible “marker” system enabling physical and digital tracking to identify, track and sort packaging waste, which is connected to a blockchain system. This is done to enable closed-loop recycling tracking, authentication of sustainability claims and improved waste sorting.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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