When hearing the words “global climate crisis,” often the first things that come to mind are legislation and high-level or complex solutions. For many, food is a passing consideration, but what we choose to eat every day can have a huge impact. Globally, food systems are responsible for more than ⅓ of greenhouse gas emissions. This is largely due to meat production. To reach the Paris Agreement goal of 40% reduction in emissions, the research shows that we must reduce meat consumption. Experiments at the MIT Media Lab found that changing food labeling may be key in this endeavor.
In 2021, Alex Berke, a PHD student in the City Science group at the MIT Media Lab, made a pitch to the Lab community: align the Lab’s food expenditures with the Lab's sustainability goals by not serving meat at catered events. The proposal polarized the community—why? To answer this question the proposal transformed into a research project, which Berke presented back to the Media Lab community in 2023. Berke and Kent Larson, the director of the City Science group, co-authored a paper published in the journal Appetite entitled “The negative impact of vegetarian and vegan labels: Results from randomized controlled experiments with US consumers.”