The ‘Take a Bite’ exhibit is a combination of several resources developed by researchers and science educators across multiple universities, charities, and commercial organisations. In this section we discuss the components of the stand, the two big events it was taken to in 2019, and the methods used to measure impact and experience.
2.1. The Exhibit
‘Take a Bite’ is an interactive exhibit, which enabled strategic researcher–learner communication (Figure 1
). Scientists from relevant disciplines worked together to design and build the exhibit. The activities are designed to engage individuals in discussions regarding food production and consumption using an easy and attractive approach.
The exhibit was designed to stimulate discussion of the issues and potential opportunities for lower the GHGE of food production, such as modified agriculture and farming practices, vertical farming, manufacturing, and utilization of food waste. Similarly, the food consumption-related activities helped visitors to understand the GHGE of food items, as well as other potential low-impact and highly nutritious food (e.g., insects), and issues related to food waste at home.
The main exhibit included eight activities. The interactions started with a short conversation supported with graphic elements (e.g., balloons and fun facts), introducing the contribution of food on climate change (i.e., carbon footprint, water footprint, food waste, etc.). This short conversation aimed to highlight the importance of anthropogenic GHGE coming from food as well as to gather, in a snapshot, citizens’ current knowledge, understanding and interest in the topic through question–answer and interaction. After this initial conversation, visitors were free to walk around the exhibit to interact with other experts and activities of their choice. To conclude the interaction, a subset of visitors keen to participate were asked to answer the qualitative evaluation questionnaire (hereafter QEQ). The invitations were based on the availability of the visitor, as there were other exhibits to visit, as well as whether they accepted to participate.
shows the eight activities on the stand, and the route to gathering evaluation information. The visitors arrived at a random position on the stand and would sample a subset of the activities depending on their own choices. Expert communicators (ECs), drawn from across the Universities and companies involved in the development of the ‘Take a Bite’ exhibit, were on hand at all times to talk to the visitors about the activities.
(1) Infographics were presented as a series of coloured key fact graphics (33 cm × 33 cm) on printed material with text and images, displayed on shelves as well as given as stickers. Visitors were able to read information related to the theme (e.g., “About 5% of the calories eaten by cows are burped out again as methane, a powerful greenhouse gas”) if all the ECs were already busy. As speaking aids for the conversations, additional information for each topic was available as laminated A4 sheets, sourced from leading scientific publications and reports. The display infographics presented facts and images about food waste generated in the UK, carbon emissions of different food items, comparison of protein content across animal products including insects, etc. Stickers included facts and images of seasonal food—vegetables, fruits, and UK growing season (e.g., pumpkin, October–December).
(2) Climate Food Flashcards were made by the Greenhouse Gas and Dietary choices Open source Toolkit (GGDOT) project, which combines expertise in GHGE calculations, food nutrition and big data to create free tools to support research, communication and policy, with the goal of reducing global GHGE from food. For ‘Take a Bite’, GGDOT assembled a freely available spreadsheet of popular food items using typical portion sizes, with values for emissions, nutrition and water use from the scientific literature. This was built up in collaboration with academics and beyond, through a series of meetings (including hack nights). The GGDOT used these to produce the first printing (v1) of climate food flashcards which were used with visitors at the ‘Take a Bite’ stand. The flashcards (v1) are a set of 56 cards that each show a serving of a specific food. Each flashcard comprised an Open Access image of the food, as well as GHGE, nutrition and water footprint information corresponding to the serving size. Some foods were included twice with different transport systems (air vs. land/rail/water transport) to clearly illustrate the impacts of both food and transportation. The carbon footprint (total GHGE produced across the life- cycle of a product or service) was represented in two different ways: (i) grams of CO2e and (ii) equivalent number of minutes of driving a car. The cards also showed the water footprint (litres; total freshwater used to produce the food) and nutritional information (protein in g; calories in kCal; fibre in g). The flashcards were used to engage with participants to highlight differences between food impacts and nutrition and impacts of production and transport systems. The ECs encouraged participants to play and make their own games, for instance “the challenge game” where each participant turns over a card and the lowest of a player-selected category (e.g., ‘protein’) wins the round.
(3) Climate Food Challenge is an online game developed for the ‘Take a Bite’ project. It was played on either an iPad tethered to the stand, or (via a QR code) on the participant’s own phone, tablet, or laptop. It takes data regarding portion size and emissions from the GGDOT spreadsheet (see above) for 28 foods. The game asks participants to rank 3 portions of food in order of carbon footprint (e.g., gCO2e), from lowest to highest. Each participant was asked to order as many combinations as they could in one minute—if the participant got multiple correct combinations, they were given bonus points and extra time. Though random, the first triplet shown to participants typically contained one ‘low’ carbon footprint food (e.g., lettuce 48 gCO2e), and two ‘higher’ carbon footprint foods—e.g., beef and sausages (1939 gCO2e, 1035 gCO2e, respectively). As the game progresses, the ratio of differences in carbon footprint between foods became smaller and smaller, increasing the difficulty. At the end of each game, there was an opportunity to quit, play again, or take a survey about their experience.
This game was also taken to the National Video Gaming Museum, Sheffield in November 2019, for an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Festival of Social Sciences event. The impact feedback of this event is included in the online Supplementary Information (SI).
(4) Farming for the Future is an interactive board game. The goal is to open up a discussion on (environmentally) sustainable farming and discuss each element of the possible improvements. A model farm is set out in a traditional mixed farm layout with toy animals (i.e., cows, sheep) on a board representing a farm. Participants role an oversized dice to decide which category they need to improve (out of GHGE, soil health, energy efficiency, biodiversity, water use efficiency or economic performance). Participants can then choose from nine improvement actions, including: (i) planting trees, (ii) installing renewable energies—a wind turbine, (iii) stop ploughing (going no-till), (iv) using GLADDIS (a ‘state-of-the-art’ mobile trace gas and stable isotope tracking laboratory developed by the University of Manchester) to measure GHGE, (v) reducing animal numbers, (vi) stopping the use of fertiliser and pesticides, (vii) use precision agriculture, (viii) add beehives and/or (ix) swap fences for hedgerows. Participants choose a maximum of 3 interventions and arrange them on the farm. Each intervention was given a score based on how well it solves the given category (e.g., water use efficiency), so a total score for each player can be calculated. The EC then discusses the best options for farm environmental sustainability.
(5) A Vertical Farm module (a multi-tier aeroponic indoor farming kit containing microgreens) was provided by LettUsGrow. This display allowed participants to learn by experiencing (e.g., seeing, touching, smelling) indoor farming, and talk about its potential role in reducing emissions, transport and land use. ECs also asked participants to guess what was growing in the module, and this then led into discussion about the nutrition of microgreens and other plants that can be grown using indoor farming.
(6) Entocycle and Insect Protein Displays aim to show innovative initiatives which use insects to provide low-impact and efficient protein sources for human and animal consumption, and to increase the economic value of food waste. At the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, this was shown as a sealed box display containing live black soldier fly larvae consuming waste from the brewing industry. Information was displayed about lifecycle and GHGE credentials of the insects. Insect cookbooks were also provided on a bookshelf of the exhibit. These displays led ECs to open conversations about the issue of quality feedstocks for feeding animals, and better use of food waste. Additionally, based on the fact that GHGEs from aquaculture and chicken depend significantly on feed, ECs could also discuss issues about where fish come from, modern aquaculture practices, amongst others. At the Bluedot Festival, we offered a variety of edible insects from the company Crunchy Critters as well as pink marshmallows (containing cochineal), and we thus presented a selection of commercially farmed insects that had been purged, cleansed, dried and packed safely to be suitable for human consumption and that provide high protein and fibre content, low carbohydrates, and minerals and essential amino acids. Similarly, the pink marshmallows open a discussion on how insects have been used by industry as red food colourings—the carmine pigment from cochineal gives a widely used pink colouring, therefore many of us will have eaten insects already without knowing it.
(7) “Finishing our plates” was an ‘unwasted food sampling’ sensory experience. The ECs led participants through a discussion on food loss and waste throughout the food system (including on-farm production, harvest, manufacturing and at home), as well as food processing technologies (preservation, drying, milling, etc.) Fruit and vegetables were used as examples of highly nutritious foods that are easily lost/wasted due to perishability (e.g., soft fruit) and unattractiveness of some parts (e.g., cauliflower stalks). A live display of the fruit (e.g., strawberries) dehydration unit was provided, while samples of fruit and vegetable flours and smells were captured in sample tubes. This approach allowed ECs to discuss the production of high-end value products from highly perishable food or avoidable food losses as well as alternative uses for fresh produce to conserve flavour and nutrition. WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste food waste reduction flyers and giveaways (bag clips and pasta measurers) were also used at this activity.
(8) Average Avril
is a life-size 2D cartoon of the “average human” on the planet. Avril’s body symbolises the contribution to climate change of daily life activities. The body sections are clearly identified with a percentage corresponding to the six largest contributors: food (25%), thermal comfort (18%), industry and travel (15% each), washing (11%) and waste (6%), numbers based on Bojana et al. [22
] The ECs guided participants to decide where to place, on Avril’s body, the magnets that represented the six main categories of daily activities, with the aim of allowing visitors to have time to consider the impacts of their food choices in the context of other daily activities.