skip to content

Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Emma joined CISL in September 2020 as a Research Associate. She is working on estimating the environmental impacts of supermarket food products and evaluating the promises and pitfalls of different policies to bring about more sustainable diets, such as carbon labelling. For her PhD, she tested which interventions were most effective to reduce meat consumption and increase vegetarian sales in university cafeterias. She has previously worked with several different academic institutions, NGOs and businesses including the University of Kiel (Germany), Microsoft Research (UK) and Zoological Society London (UK). More generally, Emma is interested in understanding how to equitably overcome economic, political and social barriers to conserving biodiversity and reaching absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions.



Emma read Zoology at the University of Cambridge for her Bachelor’s degree; she then spent two years studying in five different countries for an Erasmus Mundus Master in Applied Ecology. For her thesis she spent four months on the Galápagos assessing the importance of mangrove habitats for juvenile fish communities.

Emma has worked for a number of different academic institutions, NGOs and businesses. After her Masters she worked at the University of Kiel in Germany, carrying out research and drafting chapters for a book on conservation auctions and agri-environmental schemes. She has worked with the IUCN on the climate change vulnerability of lemurs; the Shark Trust on trends in capture and trade of Elasmobranchii; the Institute of Zoology London (ZSL) on the National Red List project; with Microsoft Research to model infrastructure failures for a British utility company; and for The Nature Conservancy's Mapping Ocean Wealth project, collecting data and developing a spatially explicit global model on fish densities within mangrove habitats. She returned to the University of Cambridge in 2016 to carry out her PhD on strategies to reduce meat consumption and the environmental footprint of food. In 2019 Emma undertook a 3-month placement at DEFRA and produced a report on the environmental impacts of bio-based plastics.

She enjoys teaching and was delighted to receive the Janet Moore prize for supervising in Zoology (University of Cambridge).


  • PhD, Diets and Behaviour Change, University of Cambridge
  • MSc, European Masters in Applied Ecology, Universities of Poitiers, East Anglia, Coimbra and Kiel
  • MA, Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge

Other affiliations

Visitor at the Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Funding and awards

Finalist in Cambridge Society of Applied Research’s (CSAR) Student Award programme

Erasmus Mundus Category B Scholarship (covered Master’s fee and provided a stipend)

Clare College Godwin Prize for Life Science



Emma researches which interventions work to reduce the environmental impact of diet. These projects span the natural and social sciences as well behavioural psychology. For this Fellowship Emma is working with Sainsbury’s on measuring the sustainability of supermarket products, considering the impacts on climate change and land use.

During her PhD (University of Cambridge, 2016-2020) Emma worked with Cambridge cafeterias to test whether placing the vegetarian options first in buffets (changing order), increasing the number of vegetarian options served (increasing availability) or altering prices can increase sales of vegetarian meals and reduce meat consumption. This work was one of the finalists in a global Solution Search for behavioural approaches to mitigating climate change. Emma was supervised by Andrew Balmford (Department of Zoology), Chris Sandbrook (Department of Geography) and Theresa Marteau (Department of Public Health and Primary Care). Her PhD was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Emma has discussed her research in outreach events including the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Soapbox Science, Earth Optimism and the Cambridge Science Festival. More generally, she is interested in understanding how to overcome economic, social and psychological barriers to conserving biodiversity and reaching absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions.


Key publications: 


Expert contributor: C Waite, S Mohankumar, R Martin, M Norman (2020). Is the UK ready for plant-based diets? Report produced for Global Food Security Programme

Expert contributor: T Park (2020) A Menu for Change – Sustainable Eating for All. The Behavioural Insights Team. London, UK.

Expert contributor: M Spalding, R Brumbaugh; and E Landis (2016) Atlas of Ocean Wealth. The Nature Conservancy. Arlington, VA.

Peer reviewed journals

E Garnett & A Balmford (2022) The vital role of organisations in protecting climate and nature. Nature Human Behaviour

K Smith, P Scheelbeek, A Balmford, E Garnett (2021) Discrepancies between two long-term dietary datasets in the United Kingdom (UK)Wellcome Open Research

T Marteau, N Chater, E Garnett (2021) Changing Behaviour for Net Zero 2050 BMJ

A Balmford, […] E Garnett […] K Nielsen (2021) Making more effective use of human behavioural science in conservation interventions. Biological Conservation

K Nielsen, T Marteau […] E Garnett […] A Balmford (2021) Biodiversity conservation as a promising frontier for behavioural science. Nature Human Behaviour

E Garnett, A Balmford, T Marteau, M Pilling, C Sandbrook (2021) Price of change: does a small alteration to the price of meat and vegetarian options affect their sales? Journal of Environmental Psychology

E Garnett, T Marteau, C Sandbrook, M Pilling, A Balmford (2020) Order of meals at the counter and distance between options affect student cafeteria vegetarian sales. Nature Food

E Garnett, A Balmford, C Sandbrook, M Pilling, T Marteau (2019) Impact of increasing vegetarian availability on meal selection and sales in cafeterias. PNAS

J Geldmann, [...] E Garnett [...] A Balmford (2020) Insights from two decades of the Student Conference on Conservation Science. Biological Conservation

F Bianchi, E Garnett, C Dorsel, P Aveyard, SA Jebb (2018) Restructuring physical micro-environments to reduce the demand for meat: a systematic review and qualitative comparative analysis. The Lancet Planetary Health

A Balmford, T Amano, H Bartlett, H Waters, [...] E Garnett [...] R Eisner (2018) The environmental costs and benefits of high-yield farming. Nature Sustainability

F Bianchi, C Dorsel, E Garnett, P Aveyard, SA Jebb (2018) Interventions targeting conscious determinants of human behaviour to reduce the demand for meat: a systematic review with qualitative comparative analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

T Jucker, B Wintle, G Shackelford, [...] E Garnett [...] N Murkherjee (2018) Ten‐year assessment of the 100 priority questions for global biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology

 Emma   Garnett
Prince of Wales Junior Research Fellow

Contact Details