I know, I know, you don’t believe me. But:
The next challenge in supermarkets is the scale. The sandwiches, soups, and hot dishes laid out in this cafeteria only scratch the surface of the Compass food options. It was the Oxford researcher Michael Clark’s job to go through the hundreds of meals made up of roughly 10 ingredients each, determining the environmental impact. Doing the same for the tens of thousands of products and myriad ingredients in a supermarket would be a Herculean task.
Assume, just for the sake of argument, that you did actually want to do this.
Getting people to switch to environmentally sustainable food options through labels is not new: hundreds of food labels exist, from ones that certify organic, to those that promise sustainable fishing. But a new type is gaining steam, one that summarises multiple environmental indicators from greenhouse gas emissions to water use into a single letter indicating the product’s impact.
What you actually want is some method of simplifying your calculation. Even, not having to do the calculation but getting someone, something, else to do it for you.
Which is what the price system does for you. All inputs into a process are indeed priced. So, the price of the item tells you the costs of all those inputs. You can therefore tell resource usage by the price of the item. This is how we know that recycling often uses more resources, because it is more expensive.
Some of those resources used are, sadly, external to the price system. So, internalise them with a Pigou tax and we’re done. Resource use is now in prices, the only thing we need to look at the judge resource use is the price. We’ve just coopted the entire economy to do our calculation for us.
Ain’t that cute?