An eye-opening trip to the supermarket with Impact Score
How much do we really think about the items we pop into our shopping baskets? Could a little knowledge help to change our buying habits? And do we all care about the same things when it comes to what we purchase?
Certainly, we can access more information about consumables than ever before, and recent innovations have focused on making us far more aware of whether products are good or bad for us. Laudable initiatives like the NHS Food Scanner come to min. It gives nutritional guidance and helps shoppers to visualise the amount of sugar contained in various products and brands, which will, no doubt, help to encourage healthier purchases.
But what if we want to know whether the items in our trolley are good or bad for the planet? For people? Or for animals?
It’s a question posed in earnest by my 12-year-old daughter, Evie – part of a generation that has grown up with a keen awareness of environmentalism, equality (or lack of it) and animal welfare.
These young people really do care about the impact of our behaviours on the world – so, it’s important to be able to empower them with the insight they need to live by their values and make a difference.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to arm Evie with the Impact Score® Shopping app on a recent retail expedition. My hope was that the app would help to educate us both and gain me some Cool Techy Mum points.
Impact Score® Shopping’s mission is to help people live more sustainably. It does this by awarding badges to UK supermarket products based on sustainability, health and fairness.
With 14 badges available in all, you can home in on the values that really matter to you. So, yes, you can find out how a product fairs on the nutritional front but, crucially, you can see exactly how evil or virtuous it is in relation to a host of other measurables.
Evie cares about health but she gets particularly passionate about palm oil, plastics and puppies. So, we started scanning with these things in mind and we uncovered some surprises.
Chocolate cereal that would normally be assigned immediately to the sin bin turned out to win badges for sustainable packaging and a low carbon footprint. Thought the app did warn us the score ‘Could Be Better’.
For some products, supermarket brands scored more favourably than what we would both view as ‘prestige’ brands – across the badge spectrum – an eye-opener for us both. And it was a definite boon being able to establish which makes of peanut butter steer clear of unsustainable palm oil – we eat a lot of peanut butter.
With the cost of a weekly shop accelerating at a worrying pace, price is an issue for us and we expected to pay a premium for the more sustainable products. When we checked the Whole Earth peanut butter, the price did look high compared to our normal brand. But when Evie compared the pence per KG price, Whole Earth was actually cheaper – so although we needed to buy the bigger jar, it turned out to be both more sustainable and more economical.
Buying toiletries, we could discover which brands avoided harsh chemicals and which were noted for no animal testing – two big ticks for my tweenager.
But, as well as really giving us pause for thought, the app was fun to use. When an Innocent Smoothie flashed up as a Hero Product – one of the most sustainable and healthy products in the supermarket – we were excited enough to celebrate, before popping it in our basket.
Will this change the way we shop? Yes. We can’t stop scanning! Being able to check the badge score of our buys is making us more considerate. For Evie in particular, this type of conscious shopping is far more appealing than wading blindly through the aisles. She wants to make a difference and perhaps, informed by the app, her future buying habits will help to do just that.
Author: Cathy Henderson