Belgium in Brief: Supermarkets fail shoppers on sustainable options

Belgium in Brief: Supermarkets fail shoppers on sustainable options
Credit: Belga / Canva

With two weeks of climate talks fizzling out with little to show in way of substantial actions to steer us away from ecological turmoil, the environmental outlook is growing ever bleaker. It isn't only the failure to implement measures that would move us towards previous targets – most famously the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°c. Even more dispiriting is the incapacity of world leaders to even offer up concrete commitments in the first place.

In the face of such heinous apathy, we might well wonder what good there is even in trying – what influence can we as individuals exert in the effort to avert disaster? It is true that our personal actions are a drop in the rising tide of greenhouse gas emissions. More frustratingly, the world most of us live in makes acting responsibly exceedingly difficult.

With regard to travel, governments have been reluctant to impose taxes or limits on airlines, allowing the industry to tempt us with almost irresistible discounts that responsible transport modes such as rail cannot compete with. How fair is it to expect consumers to make the right choice of their own volition? Particularly when that will cost them, effectively penalising individuals for being responsible.

It's a similar story with food. Belgium's supermarkets are keenly aware that the primary concern of shoppers is price, eating sustainably is a secondary concern and one given little attention. For those who aren't familiar with the environmental impact of particular foodstuffs, how would you know which ingredients take a heavy toll on the environment?

And even if you are able to spot the more problematic products, avoiding them isn't made easy. Analysis of Belgium's major supermarkets reveals that two in three ready-meals contain meat; just 4% are fully vegan. Whilst we like to think that only we can choose what goes into our mouths, could it be that enlarging the more sustainable offerings would increase their consumption?

It may not avert climate meltdown, but it might be some small solace to know that we're not eating our way to oblivion. The researchers also make the notable point that a more sustainable food chain will be more cost-effective in the long run.

Are you ready to change how you shop? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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