Image credit: The Guardian (Glad to see they helped US readers out by explaining what's in the picture!)
Do Carbon Labels Facilitate Better Choices?
I've already written about Greenpeace claims that soft toilet paper is worse than Hummers, but now UK retailer Tesco, which has long been promising a carbon-labeling scheme, is trying to help consumers decide for themselves. Their own-brand toilet paper will join their laundry detergent, orange juice, potatoes and light bulbs in displaying its carbon footprint prominently on the packaging. But will it make a difference?
Leo Hickman over at The Guardian is skeptical about Tesco's carbon disclosure scheme:
Let's give that some sort of context. Google declared earlier this year that each Google search generates 0.2g of CO2. So now we know that using one sheet of recycled toilet paper has the same carbon footprint as performing five-and-a-half Google searches.
We now also know that you would have to get through 200 sheets of toilet paper before you matched the carbon footprint of one carton of orange juice. Or 773 sheets of toiler paper before you equalled the carbon footprint of just one washload's worth of biological washing powder. We know all this because the Carbon Trust, who do the sums for Tesco, tells us so.
The big question, though, is will this extra information motivate you to change your habits in any way? The next time you lurch towards the toilet-roll holder, will you choose to use a few sheets fewer to reduce your carbon footprint, no matter how infinitesimally small the saving might be? What I really don't like about carbon labelling, though, is that is neatly passes the buck on to the consumer.
I'm not sure consumer behavior is the only end goal here though. Surely the simple fact that Tesco's is committed to measuring and communicating the carbon footprint of the products it creates will help to identify where emissions savings can best be made.
And if we could get carbon labeling on reusable bags and plastic bags, well maybe we could finally decide if the plastic bag debate is a distraction after all.