Conscientious shoppers check the nutrition label of most foods they buy. But that takes up precious time that many grocery store patrons don’t have (or don’t want to sacrifice). And taking the time to figure out whether a product is local or not? That’s an even bigger pain.
Enter the Lambent Shopping Trolley Handle, a 16-LED multicolor display that clips onto any shopping cart and signals product information via pattern changes. One color pattern might indicate that a product is organic, and another might tell you if it’s local (low, medium, or high food miles).There are smartphone apps that can also help with shopping decisions, including GoodGuide and RedLaser. But people generally have their hands full when food shopping, and it’s difficult to whip out a cell phone every time you want to examine a product. Would the technology actually influence grocery store decisions? According to the researchers behind the device, yes. They sent 18 U.K. shoppers to a well-known chain grocery store with shopping lists and carts outfitted with the Lambent handle. They found that when shoppers used the device, 72% of the products they bought had a lower mean food mileage than products bought when they went shopping with a normal cart. The researchers write: "When evaluated in situ, the Lambent handle display nudged people to choose products with fewer food miles than the items they selected using their ordinary shopping strategies. People also felt guilty when the average mileage of the contents of their entire shopping trolley was above the social norm." Nudging—instead of offering recommendations—seems to be an effective way to get people to make good food choices.