UBC Undergraduate Research

Don’t worry, be hungry? : Assessing the relationship between pro-environmental behaviour and eco-anxiety using Climate-Friendly Food Systems labels Wesselow, Kirsten


Eco-anxiety has previously been associated with increased pro-environmental behaviour, while higher situational control has previously been associated with lower levels of worry. The present study sought to identify whether presenting participants with a specific highly controllable pro-environmental behaviour - the use of climate-friendly food systems (CFFS) labels to inform food choice - would lead individuals with higher levels of eco-anxiety to embrace the behaviour to a higher degree. The traffic-light-style CFFS labels, where level of greenhouse gas emissions was indicated by a green, yellow, or red label, were implemented in a survey-based shopping task, as well as in a university dining facility. In the survey, eco-anxiety level was assessed after the introduction of CFFS labels. Exploratory data including climate concern, pro-environmental intent, race, gender, and age were also collected in the survey. In the dining facility, the labels were added to the facility’s menu after a period of baseline data collection, and a poster featured at the dining facility described the meaning of the labels to customers. An Instagram marketing campaign was also used to promote understanding of the labels. The survey study found that on the shopping task, food choice was significantly impacted by the CFFS labels. A small positive and marginally significant relationship was found between the pro-environmental behaviour of individual change in food choice and eco-anxiety. In assessing the relationship between pro-environmental behaviour and the secondary variables, no relationships were found. However, a moderate positive and significant relationship was found between eco-anxiety and both pro-environmental intent and climate concern. It is possible that, because the shopping task was hypothetical, a different relationship may have been found between pro-environmental and eco-anxiety in a real-world setting, where the impact of the labels may not have been as large. In the university dining facility, the food labels were related to a significant increase in red item sales, a significant decrease in yellow item sales, and no change in green item sales compared to baseline sales data. Though these results may be due to a genuine relationship between the presence of CFFS labels and a decrease in pro-environmental food choices, these results may also be related to the fact that baseline data and intervention data were collected in different seasons and during periods associated with different levels of stress. The discrepancy between label-informed change in food choice on the survey and at the dining facility indicates the need for further research on demonstrated rather than self-reported pro-environmental behaviour. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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