By Ana Yong
Floop is an application created by Kayleigh Goodman, Blaze Horn and Jim Kimberley which calculates the carbon footprint of what we eat. The objective is to bring attention to one’s personal carbon footprint and generate demand for sustainable food without being a vegan.
We were fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Kayleigh Goodman on the potential of the Floop app and how it can help to alleviate the effects of climate change.
Interview with Kayleigh Goodman, Co-founder of the Floop App
AY: What inspired you to create Floop? Was there a specific problem or need that you wanted to address?
KG: I grew up in Lincolnshire, an area that’s been referred to as the ‘allotment of the U.K.’ because there is so much farming in the area.
When the Covid pandemic began in 2020, like many people, I returned back to where my family was. But my older eyes saw the area in a new light especially because that Spring was unusually hot.
It was great for spending time in the garden, but bad news for the farmers and their harvests. That led me to think a lot more about the relationship between the climate and our food.
After doing some research I found that so much attention regarding climate impact is on flying, cruise ships, cars, and so on, but the food we eat causes 25-40% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the food industry one of, if not the biggest, contributors to global warming.
Yet there wasn’t an easy way to find out how the food choices we make affect the climate. So, I decided to do something about it by creating Floop.
AY: Can you describe the user experience and interface for someone who wants to measure their carbon emissions using the app?
KG: I always tell people to think of Floop like MyFitnessPal but for carbon emissions instead of calories.
You can add favorite recipes to the app by choosing ingredients from our in-app database. The app will calculate the total emissions of your meal so you can discover its carbon footprint.
Users can plan and log the recipes, meals or snacks that they eat using the in-app Meal Planner. There are some delicious pre-installed recipes too.
We realize not many people know whether 1kg of CO2e is high or low, “good” or “bad”. So, each meal shows the carbon footprint in easy-to-understand equivalencies, like miles driven in a car or the number of hours using air conditioning.
And one of our latest features shows a food Carbon Budget for each day. The app adds up your food’s climate impact to see if your dietary emissions stay below your daily budget.
AY: In what ways does Floop provide guidance or suggestions to users on how they can lower their carbon emissions through food choices? Does it offer personalized recommendations or educational resources?
KG: It was hugely important to us to not tell users to eat one way or another — no one likes to be lectured.
Instead, we just want to show the facts and trust the person holding Floop in their hands to make informed choices and decisions based on what we can show them.
When you first use the app, we ask some simple questions to see if the user would like to lower their emissions based on an estimate of how much their diet currently uses and use that for their starting Carbon Budget. The app also lets users find recipes based on the CO2e emissions, helping users to stay under budget.
We strongly believe anyone can make the best choices if they have the information in front of them, and that’s what the Floop app shows in relation to food and the climate.
AY: Can you tell us about the data sources or databases that Floop relies on to provide accurate carbon emission measurements?
KG: Floop’s data is based on a scientific methodology called Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs). The total greenhouse gas emissions for each ingredient in the app is based on an LCA. We measure emissions in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) meaning all greenhouse gases are accounted for, not just carbon dioxide.
The total emissions are calculated by considering different stages of a food product’s ‘life’. This includes extracting the ingredient (for example, growing a carrot in a field), sorting and processing the ingredient, making the ingredient into other products (for example, carrot batons), packaging the ingredient and transporting them to the shop.
We don’t include the emissions related to waste – though our Meal Planner helps you to avoid the climate impact associated with food waste.
AY: Have you conducted any studies or research to validate the accuracy of Floop’s carbon emission calculations? If yes, could you share some insights from those studies?
KG: Yes, we have researched, and quickly realized it’s never going to be possible to have 100% accurate data for the ingredients each individual person eats.
After all, a carrot grown from a small regenerative farm a few miles from your home will be better for the environment than a plane-imported carrot from a giant overseas producer. Our data tries to account for the average impact.
Many people are already thinking about the impact of transport on food’s carbon footprint. Our research found that, actually, transportation only accounts for around 10% of an ingredient’s climate impact.
AY: How does Floop differentiate itself from other carbon footprint measurement apps or tools available in the market, particularly in relation to food choices? What unique features or capabilities does it offer?
KG: There are some carbon footprint tracker apps out there, but none that focus on food choices more than some simple ‘how often do you eat meat’-type questions.
Many tools try to add up all of the things a person does, like how many miles they drive, in what type of car, how frequently they fly, how big their house is and so on, combining it all together for an annual value, with food often being a side-thought.
Floop isn’t like that at all. We show the impact of each ingredient in a meal, each meal in a day, and each day’s impact over a week.
With food being such a major contributor to climate change – and the easiest lifestyle change an individual consumer can make every single day – we wanted to give food the environmental focus it deserve as well as tips for making it the tastiest way to fight climate change!
AY: Could you share any success stories or user feedback that demonstrates the positive influence of Floop in helping individuals make more sustainable food choices and reduce their carbon footprint?
KG: Our users have told us they really appreciate being able to compare their meal’s emissions to other household items and activities. Knowing that your prawn salad produces more emissions than cleaning seven loads of laundry is pretty powerful!
The low-carbon recipes have also proved popular in the app and on our website. I think that’s because even when we know what should be done to reduce our diet’s carbon footprint, it always helps to have instructions on how to actually do it.
We know that some users like using Floop mainly as a way to plan their meals, with learning about their food’s emissions as a secondary win. For me, that’s great news because it means that climate information is being made more visible and in a brand-new way, even if a user’s primary Floop usage is as a meal-planning app.
AY: Are there any plans to expand the scope of Floop beyond carbon emissions and incorporate other sustainability metrics related to food such as water usage or land impact? If so, what are the future goals in this regard?
KG: Water usage, land impact, and even calorie information is something we’d love to add in future updates.
We know that sustainability is more than just carbon emissions, after all, and trying to show as many metrics as possible to the user would be excellent.
Similar to the equivalencies we have for the CO2e impact, we’d show any water impact in easy-to-understand values like minutes in the shower, baths run, and so on.
AY: How do you envision Floop contributing to larger efforts to reduce carbon emissions and promote sustainable food choices?
KG: We started Floop because we wanted to empower consumers. We know that the food you choose has a major influence on what’s available in supermarkets in the future. Just look at the rise of new vegan products over the last few years caused by consumer demand. We believe that choosing more sustainable food products will also influence a more sustainable food system, overall.
There are so many sustainable foods and food brands out there and we’d like to champion them in the app too.
We’d like to think that our efforts to highlight the climate impact of food is something other eco-conscious individuals will begin to expect from their shopping and eating out.
Calorie information is on items in the supermarket and some restaurants feature it too, so why not climate information?
AY: Are there any challenges or limitations you have encountered while developing or implementing the Floop app? How do you address those challenges?
KG: As with every app, there’s always a slight gap between what we expect users to do and the reality of what happens when the app is installed on their phones.
Thankfully, we got some great feedback from our early users about frustrations they had when just wanting to log a snack, like an apple.
Originally, we had each item a user adds having to be a meal, so eating an apple would require an entirely new recipe with one single ingredient.
This is something we’ve now addressed with a “quick add” function that allows a user to easily add a single ingredient or meal.
The biggest challenge we’ve had to date is that it is only available to iPhone users. But that’s soon changing as we are currently developing the Floop Android app, which will be released later this year.
The concept of measuring carbon emissions related to food choices aligns well with the growing global awareness of environmental issues and the need for sustainable practices.
Floop’s approach not only enables individuals to track their own carbon footprint but also fosters a sense of responsibility towards the environment. By providing insights into the environmental impact of different food options, the application encourages users to adopt more eco-friendly and climate-conscious dietary habits.