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What does sustainable shopping look like? From environmental impact to workers' rights, the term can cover so many aspects that buying sustainably can be a daunting task. But a new app that helps people select supermarket products by ethical preferences and an online database that brings transparency to supply chains aim to change that.
Dr. Johannes Klinglmayr from the Linz Center of Mechatronics in Austria is developing a smartphone app to help shoppers choose food products that conform to their own version of sustainability.
Problems - Consumerism - Data
"One of the problems for sustainable consumerism is getting reliable data," he said.
The app is designed to be used when someone is standing in front of a supermarket shelf, and allows people to assess the difference brands for between similar products such as pasta.
Bluetooth - Customer - Location - Database - Product
It works via Bluetooth, matching the customer's location with a database of product information. The app allows someone to see how each one matches their own preferences, which they've pre-programmed into the app.
To do this, Dr. Klinglmayr and his team on the ASSET project used some 25 sustainability criteria to tag products with, including environmental factors such as being free from palm oil as well as health concerns such as being sugar-free.
Word - Apart - People - Ability - Criteria
"We have to take the word apart and give people the ability to build their own criteria," Dr. Klinglmayr said. "The point is that everyone has a different understanding of sustainability, but on some levels there is overlap."
For one shopper, he explains, sustainability could mean organic food, while for another it means food that was sourced locally, or has a small carbon footprint, or was produced whilst upholding workers' rights.
Sustainability - Criteria - Shopper - Product - Area
But all four of those sustainability criteria would prompt a shopper to buy a product made locally, in an area he or she feels familiar with. "This means that four shoppers could have different understandings...
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