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Promoting Sustainable Behavior to Reduce Food Waste

By Janet Haugan, Vice President of Customer Success  ///  December 8, 2016

3 things you can do today to shift behaviors in your team.


If you follow LeanPath and our food waste blog, you’ve likely heard us say this: food waste is a behavioral issue. You can implement processes, use technology, create mandates—but at the end of the day, if we can’t change behaviors, then we can’t begin to solve this problem.

That’s why our methodology at LeanPath is so focused on behavioral science—integrating proven strategies and tactics to shift behaviors as it relates to food waste. For example, we use “vivid information” and “clear equivalencies” to illuminate the impact of wasted food on our tracking devices, showing users how much money would be wasted if they threw away the item they’ve just discarded every day for a year, or how many bath tubs of water wasted that would equate to.

Whether you use LeanPath technology or not, here are a few things you can start doing right away that will begin to shift behaviors in your kitchen to a more waste-aware, sustainable mindset:

Post a waste reduction goal in a central location.

Research shows that setting and focusing on specific goals leads to higher performance than when there are no goals or vague goals in place. Your goal should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Stick to just one goal at a time, and make sure it is posted in a prominent and visible spot in your kitchen (consider hanging a white board in a central location). An example might be: “This week, our kitchen goal is to reduce overproduced soup by 50%.” Talk about your goal with your team every day—how did you do the day before? What will you do to work toward achieving the goal today?

Show a video, and highlight how individual actions affect overall impact.

While many people are well-meaning when it comes to concern about the environment, research suggests they don’t necessarily link their individual behaviors to real-world impacts. Highlight the connection between individual actions and the bigger food waste issue, emphasizing how changing behavior can make real differences in the larger context. Get started by showing a short video from our blog post on “9 Eye-Opening Food Waste Videos to Share with Your Team” to highlight the impact of wasted food, and then facilitate a discussion about your specific operation and individual behaviors.

Post tips and reminders around the kitchen.

Highlighting behaviors that we want to change is most useful when done at the time the behavior occurs. A simple visual reminder, placed at the time and location the targeted behavior is likely to take place, is called a “prompt.” Consider adding some prompts around your kitchen, in locations where food waste tends to occur most often. For example, post some tips to encourage better vegetable trimming techniques by the cold prep area, or post a reminder by the walk-in to check for items approaching expiration to use them while they are still good.

Keep it positive.

One of the most important things you can do, whether you are just starting to tackle this issue or you have been addressing it for some time, is to keep your conversations related to food waste open and positive. Though wasting food is bad thing, acknowledging it and working to prevent it is a very good thing! Talk about food waste often and encourage your entire team to participate and share their ideas—remember to recognize people for their contributions too. A “way to go” or “thank you” can go a long way in terms of fostering sustainable behaviors.

Topics: Food Waste Prevention Newsletter