Today’s first round of dissertation seminars with 3rd year students proved as interesting as ever and it was good to get an idea of the topics that seem to be of most concern this year. Each year it seems a particular topic is popular – in the past this might have been the First Things First Manifesto, design ethics or manipulation of images in design. This year it’s sustainability, and that to me is a Good Thing.
A couple of students want to look at how sustainability can be made “sexy”, rather than constantly being rammed down people’s throats as a do or die attitude.
Coincidentally, when I got home, I read this press release about research being carried out by a PhD student at the University of Nottingham:
Are consumers under too much pressure to be healthy? Has the global financial crisis sidelined the promotion of sustainable food? And how much do consumers actually know or care about the subject?
These are some of the questions being asked exclusively of people in Nottinghamshire in a major new study, by a researcher at The University of Nottingham.
PhD candidate Angie Clonan, from the Division of Nutritional Sciences, will send out 2,500 questionnaires in an unprecedented survey that will find out what consumers really think about sustainable foods.
‘It’s accepted that food choices are difficult enough,’ said Ms. Clonan. ‘There are so many things consumers have to weigh up when food shopping, from cost to convenience.
‘Sustainability is justifiably important, but issues like the drive for more organic foods and ethical trading are placing even more pressure on consumers. For this reason it’s important to find out what people actually think of sustainability in order to better achieve it.’
The official definition of food sustainability – set out by Sustain – is food that is accessible, healthy, nutritious, respects the environment and biodiversity, promotes the use of fair trading practices and respects the rights of workers throughout the food-chain.
‘Understanding sustainability is clearly important, and no less so than in food production and consumption,’ said Ms. Clonan. ‘It is important to assess the environmental impact of various processes, but you can’t do all of that without taking people’s attitudes into account.’
The research will delve into several key issues including the current level of awareness people have about sustainable food, the importance of socio-demographic issues, links between shopping habits and attitudes to sustainability and the perspective of healthy eaters.
‘This is the first survey of this kind that takes as its lead people’s experiences and views on sustainability. For that reason it’s very important that people fill it in if they receive one.’
The surveys will be sent out to a random sample of people taken from the electoral roll. One of the respondents will win a £100 Marks & Spencer voucher.
The questions are simply laid out and easy to answer. They cover shopping habits, attitudes, dietary information, shopping behaviour and socio-demographic information.
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