Nature paper calls for carbon labeling

March 29, 2011

Labeling products with information on the size of the carbon footprint they leave behind could help both consumers and manufacturers make better, environmentally friendly choices.

A Michigan State University professor and colleagues, writing in the April issue of the journal Nature , said that labeling products, much like food products contain labels with nutritional information, could offer at least a short-term solution.

"Even modest changes in the household sector could significantly reduce emissions," wrote Thomas Dietz, a professor of sociology who also is with MSU's and Policy Program. "A carbon-labeling program could reduce in two ways: By influencing consumer choices and by encouraging firms to identify efficiencies throughout the supply chain."

Recent surveys, Dietz said, have found that nearly one-third of all consumers are willing to purchase "green" products or have already done so. The problem, he said, is a lack of information.

"A major barrier to improved in households seems to be a lack of understanding of the impacts of various actions and products," Dietz said. "Providing information would lower this barrier, allowing consumers to make more informed choices without substantial effort.

"The value of the label comes not from providing perfect information, but better information than the consumer has at present."

The authors of the piece said that labeling also may induce firms to reduce their emissions in ways that lower their costs, enhance their reputations, and make them more supportive of governmental policy measures that re-enforce their emissions-reducing actions.

There are often opportunities for cost savings by reducing fossil fuel use in manufacturing and distributing products. The analyses needed for carbon labeling can identify those potential savings.

The authors write that labeling alone will not solve the problem. But argue that a "private carbon-labeling program for consumer products could help fill the policy gap by influencing both corporate supply chains and consumer behavior."

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3 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2011
This guy is out of his mind. This concept has been talked about before. The number of problems and the complexity of the problems to implement this is immense. The carbon footprint of trying to implement this would outweigh the benefit. Besides, global warming is the lowest of all environmental concernes right now in the US according to the latest Gallup pole (just released in the past couple days). It would be more wise to spend our time and energy on things that are more important to people, like the number one and two things on the list; contamination of soil and water, and pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Number three was pollution of drinking water and four was maintenance of the nation's fresh drinking water supply for houshold needs. After that, the approval rating jumped way down, but it seems like water is what everyone is thinking about these days. Global warming was ranked last, at 9th place. 51% said yes to global warming and 48% said no, so a simple majority but.
3 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2011

I wonder what government agency is going to run this? The FDA? Then is it only food products that get a carbon label? The EPA? Oh heaven help us, they are too big already. I don't think another government mega-agency to preside over carbon labels is going to help us. Think of all the paperwork, offices, inspectors, legal battles, etc. And... since most of our goods come from other countries, like China, how does this guy propose to get them to comply with this? Some manufacturers already have sustainability programs. My company does. We label some of our product as 'organic' and I can promise you that the label is BS. They use GPS controlled tractors. Whoo hoooo! Big deal.

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