Which factors facilitate and hinder the transition to plant-based foods amongst students?
Paauw, Lisa de
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As meat-and dairy consumption has a substantial negative impact on the environment, this qualitative study examines factors that promote and hinder the transition to plant-based foods of students, who are in a crucial life stage developing purchasing and eating behaviour. Previous scholars have emphasized that while individual sustainable behaviour is important to increase environmental sustainability, contextual factors can constrain and facilitate individual behaviour in important ways. However, most policy initiatives and studies focus mainly on motivational factors, and neglect these contextual factors. This study applies the COM-B model as theoretical framework, as it explicitly considers both personal and contextual factors in behaviour change. Based on semi-structured interviews (n = 15), this study aims to answer the question: ‘How do factors related to capabilities, opportunities, and motivation and their interrelations promote or hinder students’ transition to plant-based foods?’. Students are motivated to eat less animal-based products. However, for most of them external factors are hindering for their transition to plant-based foods. Hindering factors are predominantly: their knowledge about what the most sustainable options are, lack of clear and unambiguous information provision, the supply and price of good substitute products, and their social environment. In line with the COM-B model, factors related to capability, opportunity, and motivation were indicated to be important, and to interact in the transition to plant-based foods. However, the impact of hindering factors seemed larger for participants who were less engaged in the transition. For this reason, reducing the impact of hindering factors and facilitating the transition to plant-based foods is an important challenge. Specifically focussing on the hindering and facilitating impact of external factors (opportunity) can have a large impact on the behaviour of students who are (somewhat) motivated to reduce their meat-intake.