To eat, or not to eat, climate-friendly?

Picture of food

CESSS-members Maria Ojala and Malin Anniko has published an article on emerging adults’ attitudes and feelings towards climate-friendly food choices, focusing on how thinking patterns can hinder or benefit pro-environmental behaviour.

Many young adults feel ambivalence when trying to live sustainably in an unsustainable society. Coping strategies are often defensive in nature, which in turn can lead to inaction. The article aims to identify more positive ways of coping with ambivalence, that would work in favour of sustainable behaviour. The focus of the article is on emerging adults in the age span 18-29. This age is recognised as an important transition phase, as the teenage years are often characterised by black and white thinking, while emerging adults are usually beginning to adjust their way of thinking to the nuances of reality. A theoretical suggestion is that dialectical thinking, that is recognising multiple perspectives at the same time and the ability for more complex reasoning, could be a constructive way of dealing with ambivalence, leading to increased ability to act.

The results of the article are based on a pilot study with 261 university students about climate-friendly food choices. The focus lies on the impact of negative and positive thinking on their food choices. Negative thinking patterns are associated with black and white thinking, perfectionism, and thoughts like “if not everyone make sustainable food choices there is no point in me doing so”. Positive thinking patterns on the other hand is related to dialectal thinking, more nuanced reasoning and focusing on the right thing to do. “Someone has to take the first step” or “you can always be a role model” are examples of this way of thinking.

The results show a strong correlation between positive thinking patterns and making more climate-friendly food choices. Conversely, there was also a strong negative correlation between negative thinking patterns and climate-friendly food choices. One conclusion from this is that learning to develop positive thinking patterns such as dialectic thinking could enable more people to live environmentally friendly. Thus, sustainability research and education could benefit from paying more attention to how dialectic thinking can be promoted.

Ojala, M., & Anniko, M. (2020). Climate change as an existential challenge: Exploring how emerging adults cope with ambivalence about climate-friendly food choices. Psyke og Logos, 2, 17-33.