Date of this Version



Sudeep Bhatia, PhD


food waste, nudge, behavioral economics, environmental policy, social influence


Food waste is a major contributor to climate change, one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. Addressing this problem would not only protect the environment, but it would also save trillions of dollars and help to reduce the staggering number of people in the world today who are chronically malnourished. This paper focuses on the potential of using behavioral economic theory, particularly the concept of “nudging” in addressing the problem of food waste. Existing literature on nudges and food waste mainly focuses on how feedback and manipulating plate size can reduce food waste. Another proven approach to “nudging” is the use of social influence. Thus, my proposed experiment will investigate the question: could incorporating social comparisons into traditional anti-food waste feedback campaigns have a significant effect on the amount of food waste, particularly in university dining halls? The study will take place in the four “all-you-care-to-eat” dining halls at Penn. The participants will be students who are enrolled in a university meal plan and choose to eat at those dining halls during the five week period in which this experiment will take place. Materials will include separate food waste only trash bins for each of the dining halls, scales to measure the food waste, a device to count how many students eat at the dining hall each day, preliminary and post-experiment surveys, and posters for each of the four treatment conditions. Expected results are based on existing literature in behavioral economics and psychology.



Date Posted: 14 May 2017


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