Marion GuillouChairwoman of Agreenium
"Conscientious consumers are everyday people who seek to transform the world through their consumption choices, in the broad sense of the term."
While it is important to analyze energy consumption, greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... (GHG) emissions and environmental impacts, it is also vital to take action at an individual and collective level to reduce their effects. This means going beyond the role of passive observer to become an active player in consumption, or a “conscientious consumer”, argues Marion Guillou, Chairwoman of Agreenium, in this article.
Conscientious consumers are everyday people who seek to transform the world through their consumption choices, in the broad sense of the term. Younger generations are highly sensitive to the concept – and they are right to be.
Consider food, for example, where consumption impacts several fields: nutrition, which spills over into health; energy use, and by extension greenhouse gas emissions; the environment, through waste management; and the balance between urban and rural areas, which raises significant political and social issues. Contradictions abound because what works well for one aspect may not for another, making trade-offs inevitable. That said, there are a few very simple recommendations that cover all possible scenarios.
Impact of Transportation
Transportation is an essential factor in calculating the energy impact of what we eat. Fresh produce freighted by air from far-off countries has a disastrously large carbon footprintThe carbon footprint (also known as greenhouse gas inventory) of a good or service measures the impact human activities have on the environment ... . Products shipped by sea, on the other hand, are virtually neutral in terms of energy consumption. But while it is crucial to look at the country of origin when buying fresh produce, the real difficulty lies in the “last mile”. From an energy point of view, it is better to walk to the local convenience store to do your shopping than to drive 10 to 20 kilometers to a large supermarket. Short supply chains are not always the cure-all solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but they do benefit peri-urban farming and contribute to vibrant rural environments and stable local economies.
Mass catering and home-delivered meals are a source of significant food waste. Cafeterias have observed that diners take 50% less bread when it is placed at the end of the circuit rather than the beginning. “Used By” dates on fresh produce need to be carefully distinguished from “Best Before” dates on canned and dry goods to prevent people from throwing away perfectly edible food. And while individually portioned products require more packaging, they more effectively cater to the needs of people who live alone and of small families, thereby curbing waste. In terms of packaging, the use and landfilling of non-biodegradableA substance capable of being decomposed by naturally occurring fungi and microorganisms. plastics has been catastrophic for our oceans and the biodiversityRefers to the natural diversity of living organisms. It can be measured through the study of species, genes and ecosystems. they harbor, making the environment the prime concern. Many countries including France have recently introduced strict bans on these materials.
A balanced, varied diet made up of vegetables and a moderate amount of meat products can have a positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions and above all on nutrition. Recommendations to increase our fruit and vegetable intake should be followed, but not to the point of relying on greenhouses heated using fossil fuels to grow these ingredients. From this perspective, frozen products offer an excellent and particularly cost-effective solution for putting out-of-season vegetables on the table, despite the energy used to maintain the cold chain. Advertisements often ignore the three golden rules to good nutrition: less fat, less sugar, less salt. To remedy this situation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended taxing sugary drinks and many countries have introduced regulations to limit audiovisual advertising during children’s peak viewing times.
In all of these highly interconnected areas, public regulations can provide invaluable support to the individual efforts of conscientious consumers.
Marion Guillou is an engineer specialized in world food security. A graduate of France’s École Polytechnique with a Ph.D. in the physical chemistry of biotransformation, she is involved in several international bodies. Marion Guillou notably chairs Agreenium, a French agricultural, veterinary and forestry institute, which was founded in 2014 to support public training, research and innovation policy in these fields. From 2004 to 2012, she served as Chairwoman of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).