Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Consumption of sustainable food in the context of crises: Climate Change and the Covid 19 Pandemic in Lower Saxony

Consumption of sustainable food in the context of crises: Climate Change and the Covid 19 Pandemic in Lower Saxony

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Kerstin Nolte and Prof. Dr. Leonie Tuitjer
Team:  Hauke Kruse
Year:  2022
Funding:  Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur
Duration:  2022 - 2025

The global climate crisis is increasingly visible in Lower Saxony, where it is leading to extreme weather events such as storms and floods. The population's awareness of the climate crisis and the challenges of overcoming it is growing steadily. Despite the high level of awareness, however, too little is being done to fight climate change, and it is in everyday routines and practices, such as the consumption of food, that the gap between attitudes and behavior (known in science as the Attitude-Behavior-Gap ABG) becomes clear. However, the fact that consumers* have an important role to play in the transition towards a more sustainable society is evident, for example, in the anchoring of the United Nations' 12th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). In addition to the climate crisis, which threatens the food security of many millions of people worldwide, the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic brought another short-term but severe disruption to food supply chains and once again brought the issue of nutrition into the focus of media and societal interest. In the context of these dual crises, it is necessary to investigate which barriers and opportunities for the consumption of sustainable food occur in Lower Saxony and whether the Covid-19 pandemic should be seen as an opportunity for more sustainability or as a barrier for the consumption of sustainable food.

Our research project on sustainable consumption in times of dual crisis, therefore asks how the consumption behavior of young adults changes in these turbulent times of long-term climate crisis and the current Covid-19 pandemic in Lower Saxony and what hinders and favors the purchase of sustainable food in times of crisis. We compare rural and urban study areas, and focus on a biographical transition and the dual crisis consisting of the long-term climate crisis and the current Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of the mixed-methods approach of this project, we first analyze a standardized survey, the results of which we supplement with our own qualitative research. Thus, we conduct digital focus group discussions. We focus on young adults who are in a crucial biographical transition: moving out of the parental home. We select groups from urban (Lüneburg, Osnabrück) and from rural regions (district of Lüchow Dannenberg and district of Emsland) in Lower Saxony. This is further complemented by interviews with producers and distributors of sustainable food in the four locations.

Our project attaches great importance to transdisciplinary exchange and transfer activities. Perspectives from politics, economy and civil society find their way into our research and help to shape it.