How do we reduce food waste?
WHY LESS IS MORE
In this project we asked the following questions:
Why do people waste food in the UC Davis dining commons?
How do we reduce food waste in the UC Davis dining commons?
UC Davis wastes over 600 tons of edible food waste per year. And we know what you're thinking "Students waste food because they don't know or they don't care". While our research shows that some students don’t care, they are in the minority. We find that food waste occurs as a response to a system that encourages food waste. We believe that the solution to reducing food waste goes beyond teaching students about food waste or to value their food.
Using Design Thinking tools and approaches learned in the course, my team and I investigated the various reasons why people waste food. We interviewed diners, chefs, directors, and outside experts and came up with a few themes. We found the following three themes: students respond very differently to new eating environments, students want variety of flavors and portions, and food waste is generally invisible in most dining settings.
We found that wasting food is really easy. What if we made it less easy? We used Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's "Nudge Theory" to come up with the Les Tray. We made a new plating system that encourages smaller portions by still having variety that feels like a complete meal (see image to the right). Smaller portions allow people to try a taste of several dishes and the smaller plate sizes give the illusion of larger food portions (Delbeouf Illusion). Therefore, this bento-box style plating system can lead to less consumption without sacrificing satisfaction.
We found that there is a culture of abundance that encourages food waste. Heaps of food is readily available, easy to access, and visually enticing immediately upon entering the dining commons.
Students tend to waste more food at the beginning of the school year because they are forming routines.
Food waste increases during stressful times of the year, such as midterms and finals week.
Students want customization of dishes and portion sizes more than variety of dishes.
Size, color, material, and feel of dishware has proven to influence consumption and meal satisfaction.
The Les Tray is designed to make it easier to customize dishes, have variety of portion sizes, and easier to carry than the current plates at the dining commons.
We made a video as part of our presentation to the design jury. See below.