Lingnan University survey reveals high support but low willingness to adapt eating habits for low-carbon restaurants

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30th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) A recent study by Lingnan University’s Hong Kong Institute of Business Studies has highlighted a significant disparity between consumer support for low-carbon restaurants and their willingness to modify personal eating habits to reduce carbon footprints. Despite over 90% of respondents expressing a readiness to support low-carbon dining establishments, there remains a substantial gap in understanding what a carbon footprint actually entails.

The survey, conducted in two phases across high-traffic areas in Hong Kong, collected insights from both consumers and restaurant managers to assess the current landscape and challenges of implementing low-carbon practices in the catering industry. Initial findings indicated that while there is a strong nominal support for environmentally friendly dining options, actual knowledge about the impact of dietary choices on carbon emissions is lacking. Only about 39% of consumers could correctly identify meat as a high carbon footprint food item.

Restaurant managers reported that transitioning to low-carbon operations is not without its challenges, citing high costs and technical difficulties as major barriers. The survey also revealed that while many are optimistic about the potential benefits of low-carbon operations, such as alignment with plastic-free campaigns and enhanced brand image, the fear of increased operational costs and potential impact on food quality could deter full adoption.

Furthermore, the study found that the willingness to change eating habits for the sake of reducing carbon emissions scored lowest among all surveyed groups, including restaurant managers, employees, and consumers. This reluctance underscores a critical need for increased public education and governmental support to facilitate the transition towards low-carbon catering solutions.

The research suggests several measures to support the catering industry’s shift to low-carbon practices, including financial incentives, technical support, and standardised policy guidelines from the government. It also emphasises the importance of fostering a broader public understanding of the environmental impacts of dietary choices to encourage more sustainable consumer behaviour.