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A Bag of Walkers Crisps: 8.3g of Fat, 80g of CO2

The carbon footprint of a bag of Walkers Crisps shrank 7 percent in the last two years, allowing the United Kingdom snack manufacturer to continue marketing the product using the Carbon Reduction Label from the Carbon Trust.

The amount of embedded carbon dioxide emissions per standard bag of Walkers Crisps is now 80 grams, down from 85 grams two years ago in an effort that has saved the company more than £400,000 (US$569,214). Walkers became the first company to sport the carbon label in March 2007, and now the PepsiCo U.K. subsidiary has also become the first company to retain it by satisfying the Carbon Trust's "reduce it or-lose it" clause.

"The goal of this goes beyond marketing to make sure companies are consistently moving toward carbon reductions," Sujeesh Krishnan, the Carbon Trust's U.S. Business Development Manager, told Tuesday.

The Carbon Trust is a U.K. government-funded entity created to foster the transition to a low-carbon economy. It launched its Carbon Reduction Label pilot program in 2007 with three participants: Walkers, Boots and innocent. When companies sign up to use the label, they must commit to reduce the carbon footprint of the product on which they are reporting.

Walkers originally agreed to shave emissions 3 percent by 2009, but the company exceeded that goal by cutting its carbon footprint 7 percent through a range of initiatives, such as switching to British potatoes to reduce food miles, trimming packaging, improving production-related energy and gas consumption, educating drivers to boost fuel efficiency, and using biodiesel in delivery trucks.

The three companies to first get involved in the pilot program used the label differently on a variety of media to educate consumers: Walkers displayed the label on its product packs; innocent used the carbon label on their website; and Boots used the label in conjunction with point-of-sale marketing materials, such as an in-store campaign that taught consumers how the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with its shampoo is generated during use; washing hair with cooler temperature water produces lower energy bills and is better for hair and for the environment.

"Those sorts of simple messages that relate to day-to-day activities are a powerful way to educate consumers," Krishnan said.

Krishnan compared carbon labels to nutritional labels and believes that greater adoption in the next three to four years will help educate consumers because they'll be able to compare the carbon footprint labels of similar products, which will also serve as an incentive for companies to further reduce emissions.

Public awareness of Carbon Reduction Labels has grown since their debut, according to research conducted last month. Thirty-six percent of respondents in a survey from Populus said they know and understand the labels, a 10 percent gain since Walkers began displaying the labels. Companies such as Tesco, Kimberly-Clark, Coors Brewers Ltd. and Danone Waters UK Ltd. are also working with the Carbon Trust on product and service lifecycle analyses.

To verify the carbon footprint of Crisps, Walkers used the PAS 2050 methodology, which is a lifecycle emissions measurement launched in late 2008 by BSI British Standards, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Carbon Trust.

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