Eat local to save the planet? Contrasting scientific evidence and consumers' perceptions of healthy and environmentally friendly diets
Current Research in Environmental Sustainability
Public debate concerning what constitutes a "sustainable" diet has grown rapidly in the past decade. In this paper, we examine consumers' beliefs surrounding sustainable diets and how these beliefs relate to evidence from nutrition and environmental science. Using data from a German online survey, we report and examine diets and methods of production, which participants perceived to be sustainable and considered healthy and/or environmentally friendly. We also pay particular attention to gender
... differences in food beliefs. Our results show that participants' perceptions and scientific evidence regarding sustainable diets diverge. Regional, seasonal, and organic foods are seen as pillars of a sustainable diet and viewed as particularly healthy and environmentally friendly. On the contrary, meat-free diets (vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian) are less associated with a sustainable diet and not perceived as particularly healthy or environmentally friendly. This reveals a science-beliefs gap for sustainable diets, as these beliefs stand in contrast to scientific evidence. In contrast to previous studies on differences between women and men concerning dietary beliefs and behaviors, this study did not find major gender differences in beliefs surrounding sustainable diets. These results indicate that improving consumers' knowledge about environmentally friendly and healthy diets, based on current scientific evidence, may be necessary in order to achieve sustainable diets and food systems.