designer. researcher. educator.

Why we waste

Why we waste


Despite the extent of food waste in the institutional sector, efforts to reduce this waste are in the early stages. Yet universities in particular are well-positioned to lead on this issue because they have frequently adopted sustainability goals and emphasize sustainability teaching and research. Universities and many other large institutions have also become interested in more transparent food sources, providing healthier food options, and reducing their carbon footprint.

In this research I ask: What are the social and environmental influences on food waste behaviors in an institutional setting and how might policy best take these into account? Using Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, I apply a qualitative mixed-methods approach, including surveys, focus groups, interviews, and observations, to understand the influences on food waste behavior in institutional dining commons. Through this detailed case study I find that food waste behaviors are influenced by institutional structure and regional policy.

I argue that a cultural shift to promote pro-environmental behaviors will have significant climate impacts. Adopting progressive policies that encourage more visible sustainable development and fund local waste management methods can improve sustainable behaviors.

Manuscript in preparation to be submitted to Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition (2018)

Image: Data from NRDC 2012 and FAO 2011, Design by Sahoko Yui and Katie Stapko.