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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pump with care

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps?
From: Allison Winter,

Tobacco packaging warning messages have recently been required on cigarettes and other tobacco products in many countries worldwide in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of smoking.

In a similar fashion, a Canadian campaign is calling for all gasoline pumps to have warning labels on nozzles to inform consumers on the effects fuels have on climate change.

Michelle Reeves at Our Horizon, the non-profit executing the campaign, states, "It's a cheap, simple idea that has the potential to change the way we think about, and address, climate change. They are modeled after cigarette package warning labels, which have been proven to work. Some people's behavior might change, but our ultimate goal is to create a shift in the political will to demand for alternatives, and create a space in the market for affordable alternative mobility solutions."

Images featured on the mock-up labels include a drought-stricken landscape, at-risk species, and a vibrant coral reef contrasted with a dead ocean floor, to name a few.

The images are accompanied by a simple "warning" in red and white text on a black background. Sample messages include: "Use of this fuel product contributes to smog which may cause asthma and other respiratory problems in children" and "Demand for this fuel product may harm wildlife and damage ecosystems".

Climate change is a very real threat and the campaign hopes to "create a shift in the social environment to facilitate action on climate change."

For those of us who don't pump our own gas (New Jerseyans and Oregonians), the labels won't have much of an effect. But if the fuel dispenser labels follow the same trends as the cigarette labels, there seems to be promise for creating awareness in the rest of the United States and Canada. Once there is some traction in North America, Our Horizon plans on taking this idea global.

The success of the gas-pump labeling campaign hopes to parallel the success of tobacco warning labels. A 2009 review on the effects of tobacco warning labels summarizes that "There is clear evidence that tobacco package health warnings increase consumers’ knowledge about the health consequences of tobacco use." The warning messages "contribute to changing consumers’ attitudes towards tobacco use as well as changing consumers’ behavior."

Being reminded at the pump of what small things we do that may contribute to pollution and indirectly to climate change will allow us to connect our daily activities to a bigger picture. Similarly, gas pump warnings will be a means to educate the public on climate change.

For more information about the campaign, check out