Foodprints “Get into the habit of eating healthier lunches, and save carbon at the same time”

Encouraging users to save carbon by eating less meat and dairy at lunchtimes through a recording tool and pledge card system.

STATS: 2747 logged lunches, 110 cards registered

The food that an average individual consumes (or wastes) can be up to 20% of their personal carbon footprint. Carbon Trust (2006) The Carbon Emissions Generated in all that we consume; Sustainable Development Commission (2009) Setting the Table: Advice to Government on priority elements of sustainable diets; Lagora, R. & Sheane, R. (2011) Foodprint Calculator A quarter of this can be saved by eating less meat and dairy, which can also be healthier.

In defining the ‘audience’ for this tool, we identified a baseline intervention that would be applicable to all DECC staff, and would provide the opportunity for verifiable data recording through the in-building canteen at 3-8 Whitehall Place.

Foodprints provides the functionality for all staff to record what they ate for lunch. This is available through the online platform, and helps staff to visualise their eating habits. What an individual chooses to eat can be quite a personal action, so it was key to remain non-invasive, and to provide incentives for users to record their lunch choices in an easy to use process.

This was achieved through awarding fixed points for a user each time they logged their lunch, regardless of their meal choice. To keep people interested and engaged by the action of recording their lunch, the tool included some game elements. These allowed us to push levers according to what actions the user wanted to increase, and we added them to the advertising on the displays:

  • ‘Hidden Treasure’ – where extra points were hidden somewhere in the lunch recording tool for that week (pop up example)
  • ‘5 in a row’ – extra points for completing the recording for a whole week

Foodprints provides an easily accessible record of what users have already eaten that week, and the week before. This information may not get prioritised in the decision making process of ‘what am I going to have for lunch?’. Various factors, such as hunger, Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. Allen Lane. Londonlow glucose levels, what friends and colleagues are doing, and what is being served may take precedence over what we normally assume to be a rational decision on lunch choice; based on what is healthy for you, and the planet. Providing a record helps to redress the potential imbalance caused by these competing factors, and allows users to change their habits based on this information.

This self-awareness and regulation has the potential for behaviour change, but it lacks the ability to incentivise changes through awarding points for healthier and less carbon intensive meal choices. This restriction exists because the information cannot be verified; if there were more points for registering a vegetarian meal, and those points lead to prizes, there is the potential for cheating and false data being recorded.

A ‘Pledge card’ provided two behaviour change functions. Firstly, the cards themselves were ‘pledges’, where DECC staff who used the in-building canteen could select one of three levels of commitment, based on the number of carbon intensive meals included on a 5-day card. The idea was that any user could start at any level, encouraging participation through low barriers to entry so that it was accessible to everyone. This could mean the people who loved eating meat and were reluctant to change, and the people who were already vegetarian or nearly vegetarian. Through making the choice of level themselves, they were more likely to complete the card because it was their own commitment.

The second behaviour change function was that the cards provided the opportunity for verifiable data collection through asking canteen staff to confirm the lunch choices. Through this, the CarbonCulture team could immediately offer different numbers of points for different meal choices, so that the decision making process included a record of one’s eating habits, and the opportunity to gain more points. An additional game element to encourage card completion was to offer ‘double point’ weeks if a card was completed that week.

Online Feedback and Interview Results — Foodprints

“I’ve been watching what I eat – it’s been helpful”

“I definitely ate less meat”

Foodprints screenshot allowing to record lunch or register a physical Foodprints card.

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