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Sustainability: The Journal of Record

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Sustainability -- Economic aspects, Transportation -- Environmental aspects, Environmental impact analysis


Although the supply chains through which foods are produced, processed, and transported can have a significant impact on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, consumers are largely unaware of how their food choices may impact the environment. Based on a previous related study, we hypothesized that a web-based training process could increase consumer knowledge and perhaps influence consumer behavior longitudinally. To test this, food distribution networks were modeled and analyzed to determine CO2 footprints for a variety of foods, and a training process was designed to teach consumers about the CO2 emissions for different types of foods that are provided either locally or transported over long distances. The training allowed users to compare alternative choices for their daily food menu. Participants from two major urban universities were given an initial knowledge survey after which they participated in the online training program including the carbon footprint of foods associated with production, preparation, transportation, and storage. Later they took a post-treatment survey regarding their knowledge and their intentions to change their purchasing behavior in selecting foods. Follow-up surveys were administered after one month and after three months. Results indicate that participants’ post-training knowledge increased and participants indicated that they intended to use the knowledge they gained to make more sustainable food choices. Additionally, participants partially retained the knowledge gained over time, maintained their intentions to change behavior, and followed through by implementing behavior change related to more sustainable food choices.


This is a copy of an article published in Sustainability: The Journal of Record © 2012 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Sustainability: The Journal of Record is available online at:



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