A new survey suggests U.S. consumers are largely unaware of the severity of global resource scarcity, but their choice of packaging would be impacted if they had readily available information on how renewable materials mitigate climate change.
Conducted by food processing and packaging company Tetra Pak and the Global Footprint Network, the survey asked 1,000 U.S. consumers about their grocery spending habits. Only 41 percent of respondents reported being “very aware” of resource constraint issues. However, fully 86 percent agreed that if they knew the use of renewable packaging contributed to reducing carbon emissions, it would impact their choice of packaging. Women were particularly motivated to choose renewable packaging options based on this knowledge: 90 percent of females said they would modify their purchasing habits while 77 percent of men did.
"Our survey confirms our belief that with information and education, consumers will respond favorably to the need to pay closer attention to resource challenges and change their individual actions, including making more environmentally responsible decisions around packaging," said Elizabeth Comere, Director of Environment & Government Affairs for Tetra Pak US and Canada.
The survey also asked respondents about specific actions they would be willing to take to conserve natural resources. The top three responses were:
- buying local grown food as much as possible (75 percent)
- only buying as much food as a household was going to consume (72 percent)
- seeking out food or beverage products that come in renewable packaging (69 percent).
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These findings coincide with Earth Overshoot Day, an indicator of when humanity has used up nature’s ‘budget’ for the entire year. Global Footprint Network announced Wednesday that we have overshot faster than ever: Overshoot Day moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.
According to TetraPak, consumers indicated that they are ready to be held as accountable as government and industry for climate change, and they are ready to support actions to mitigate its harmful effects. While 81 percent of respondents said that no one group is responsible for addressing natural resource constraints, the majority also believes that no single group is doing enough.
Daily purchasing choices can make a difference, said Mathis Wackernagel, president and co-founder of Global Footprint Network.
"How we meet our basic needs — including food — is a powerful way to shape sustainability. Eating food from local sources and less emphasis on animal-based diets can lower the Ecological Footprint," he said. "When we buy packaged foods, opting for packaging made from renewable materials also contributes to a lower Ecological Footprint."
This survey follows Tetra Pak’s launch of the first carton made entirely from renewable packaging materials last year, and is the latest evidence that consumers desire more sustainable packaging options.