Can climate-related emotions and ambivalent attitudes explain emerging adults’ climate-friendly food choices?

Plate depicting the Earth surrounded by vegetables.

While people can help mitigate climate change by making more climate-friendly food choices, trying to live in a sustainable way in a largely unsustainable society is not always easy. What drives young people towards making climate-friendly food choices despite these difficulties?

In a recent article published in Frontiers in Psychology, Kirsti Jylhä, Institute for Future Studies, and CESSS-affiliated Maria Ojala together with Sandy Odisho, and Anja Riise examined possible factors explaining emerging adults’ intentions to make climate-friendly food choices. The study was based on the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), a model which holds that intentions to perform a behavior are influenced by a person’s attitudes towards the behavior, subjective norms about how others expect one to behave, and perceived behavioral control, which is the belief in one’s capacity to perform the behavior. The authors extended this model by also investigating the importance of climate-related emotions in the form of climate-change worry and optimism, as well as ambivalent attitudes, that is, mixed views, about climate-friendly food choices.

The authors found that, except for optimism, all other variables were associated with climate-friendly food-choice intentions. The most important factor for explaining climate-friendly food intention was attitudes towards these kinds of food choices, and the second most important was climate-change worry. The authors also found that ambivalence moderated the relationship between attitudes and intentions, which means that when emerging adults expressed more conflicting views regarding climate-friendly food choices, their attitudes were less important for explaining their behavior intentions.

These results illustrate that the components included in TPB, climate-change worry, as well as ambivalent attitudes, are important factors for understanding emerging adults’ climate-friendly food choices. By taking these factors into account, researchers might be able to find better ways to encourage young people to make more climate-friendly food choices in their everyday lives.

Jylhä, K. M., Ojala, M., Odisho, S., & Riise, A. (2023). Climate-friendly food-choice intentions among emerging adults: Extending the theory of planned behavior with objective ambivalence, climate-change worry and optimism. Frontiers in Psychology, 14. Read the full article here.


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