The earth-shattering footprint of the potato crisp (‘chip’)

Lovely piece of reportage in this BBC clip, by the slightly bemused Paul Mason, about the newly-introduced carbon-footprint label on Walkers crisp packets. (Most of the footprint is involved in the farming and manufacturing, and not the packaging, distribution and disposal.) The use of audio and visuals lends quirkiness to this ground-breaking story – for example regarding the carbon embodied in a steak. And his research led him to having the carbon footprint involved in the making of his article calculated:

350kg, about 4500 packets of crisps; to the planet earth, I can only say, ‘sorry!’

What excites me is the charting of the supply chain – the ecology of a product – that amounts to something more akin to systemic analysis.

The move of Walkers is a new beginning in terms of the information made available to consumers. Whilst a packet’s footprint of 75g is negligible, the labelling scheme heralds a very significant change for the consumer marketplace. Even though a voluntary scheme, I suspect it won’t be long before others follow suit just in order to appear responsible – failing to calculate, or withholding, the information will do little for a producer’s reputation. So when the dairy and meat industry follow suit, consumers will have the opportunity for greater discernment in their consuming decisions – just as they already do regarding vitamin and mineral (and, dare I say, calorie) intake etc.

Maybe not planet changing, but certainly consciousness raising.

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