When it comes to thinking about the health of the planet, most consumers feel an overwhelming sense of worry and paralysis, unsure if the small steps they take will even make a difference. After all, their consumption has partially contributed to the climate crisis.

Across the world, consumers say they want to live more sustainably and do less harm to the planet. In Wunderman Thompson’s “New Sustainability: Regeneration” report, 79% of consumers surveyed in China, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom by SONAR™ say they are increasingly conscious of their personal impact on the planet, and 83% say they would always pick the brand with a better sustainability record. But acting on that desire can be difficult—86% say there’s not enough information on products to make that assessment.

Now a clutch of businesses, from finance to food to retail, is coming up with tools to make it easier for consumers to consistently watch their carbon footprint.

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WEB Mogo Spend dashboard UI

Canadian fintech company Mogo last month introduced a mobile app with a digital spending account and a prepaid Visa card that also helps customers reduce their carbon footprint. The MogoSpend card requires users to load funds before it’s used, so there’s no temptation to overspend. In addition to offering cashback, Mogo offsets one pound of CO2 for every dollar spent using the card. Last year, in a similar vein, Swedish fintech company Doconomy introduced a credit card that cuts off spending when a carbon limit, rather than a financial limit, is reached.

Do the right thing

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ThredUp's Fashion Footprint Calculator

Climate-conscious consumption is part of a wider trend of values-based shopping. “Today’s customers live in tumultuous times. Disinformation campaigns, social isolation, wealth inequality, climate change, and political unrest surround them,” technology research firm Forrester wrote in its predictions for 2020. “As a result, they want to align their purchases with their values. Consumers appreciate experiences that spark delight. They love experiences that spark hope.”

Last month, Quorn became the first major food brand to say it will introduce carbon labelling. Quorn makes plant-based alternatives to mince, burger patties and sausages. The carbon footprint labels will begin appearing on some products in June, Peter Harrison, chief commercial officer of Quorn Foods, told the Guardian.

In the fashion world, clothes resale website ThredUp recently launched a Fashion Footprint Calculator to help consumers calculate the environmental impact of their wardrobe. Users input how many pieces they buy each year, how many loads of laundry they do a month, and indicate whether they mend or donate their clothes, among other factors.

The website also offers discounts on recycled clothing, sustainable brands and clothes rentals.

New tools

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Doconomy’s Do Black credit card
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As mentioned above, Doconomy’s Do Black credit card tracks the carbon footprint of each purchase and stops working when a user is deemed to have hit their monthly limit. Calculations for the limit are based on the United Nations 2030 carbon reduction target, and a user’s limit is roughly half of the per capita carbon dioxide currently emitted by citizens of developed countries.

Doconomy lets users purchase additional credit by buying units in climate-friendly projects in developing countries. But this “should not be used as an indulgence for further consumption,” its website says. The startup also offers a Do White credit card that simply tracks a user’s carbon footprint without imposing a carbon limit.

Governments are also facilitating sustainability. The Finnish capital Helsinki launched the Think Sustainably platform in mid 2019 to give residents, visitors and business owners tools to assess their daily behavior and make greener choices. From a think tank called Demos Helsinki, the platform rates local restaurants, galleries and attractions according to criteria including their greenhouse emissions. It also takes into account waste management, protecting biodiversity, accessibility and employment and preventing discrimination.

These new tools—from credit cards to sustainable city guides—are helping consumers turn green intentions into actual green behavior.

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