The Food Waste Lab: Improving food waste reduction behavior through education

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Research has demonstrated the relevance of addressing food waste (FW) in private households in mitigating climate change. There is, however, little research on the potential of educational interventions in school settings to reduce this household FW. This paper explores the potential of education to positively shape 9th to 11th graders' behavioral determinants regarding FW reduction, and offers insights into the potential to develop FW reduction strategies. The FW-related educational intervention (“Food Waste Lab”) engaged the participants (n = 81) in the development and application of FW reduction strategies at home. There was a significant reduction in FW reported over time. However, this reduction cannot necessarily be attributed to the reduction strategies, but may be a result of decreasing engagement in FW measurement activities. The main contribution of the intervention was increased awareness among participants of FW as a driver of climate change. Participation in the Food Waste Lab increased the likelihood of participants using taste as a judgment criterion of edibility, and eating up leftovers. No significant changes could be identified with regard to food literacy and Theory of Planned Behavior constructs. Unexpectedly, the perceived feasibility of the FW reduction goals decreased over time. This study provides recommendations to correct this shortcoming. Notably, highlighting the ease of reducing FW at home is key to increasing the perceived feasibility of this goal and motivating participants to engage in FW reduction. Focusing on a specific behavior related to the use of leftovers is relevant when designing an intervention targeted to adolescents. Nevertheless, the study's limitations indicate that the future intervention design should consider reactance and fatigue as important constraints in educational interventions involving FW measures. Finally, this study calls for more robust experimental designs to evaluate the impact of various FW reduction interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number133447
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10.10.2022

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