Food waste is a problem that permeates the whole food supply chain and cause economic losses, negative effects on the climate and environment and depletion of finite resources. The scale of required change necessary to counteract the negative effects is huge. In Swedens schools food waste loss is a matter of a costly wastage, both from an environmental perspective, but also with regard to municipalities' limited resources. Due to this, there is a big demand for waste loss reducing measures. Something that can help mitigate the extent of the food waste problem is behavioral change. Unfortunately, we cannot expect change to occur on one’s own. We need tools that can nudge us in the right direction.
This thesis is a theoretical base that explores and describes how nudging, a tool for sustainable behaviors, can be a part of the solution to the food waste problem in school canteens. Recommendations for design and implementation of such change strategies are presented, with a special focus on planned interventions (nudges) and practical application. The goal is that the study will contribute to the application of behavioral insights in the environmental field. The foundation of the thesis consists of two earlier studies, a literature study, aimed at examining nudging as a tool for sustainable societal development, and a pilot study, aimed at examining students' behavior in canteens, and how they deal with leftovers. The first study found a number of practical shortcomings if nudging (the tool) is to be used successfully, long-term and more extensively in environmental work. The pilot study found irrationally made decisions among students.
In order to answer how nudging can be part of the solution to the food waste problem in schools, the thesis applied the strategic framework for sustainable development. According to the strategic framework for sustainable development nudges employs as a catalyzing action while nudging is a tangible tool for strategic behavior change management. In the thesis nudging and nudges are presented as two separate parts of the behavior change management process, this also illustrates how each part can be part of the solution to the problem, because it clarifies the scope of the notions and their role in resolving the issue. Based on knowledge gained from the pilot study, the thesis draws conclusions that there is a theoretical potential to use nudging to encourage sustainable development in school canteens and reduce food waste, especially when students are about to leave the canteen, but also in the serving situation and during everyday school hours. Identified areas to focus on when applying nudges were mainly evaluation and feedback, smart anchors, order, normative messages, commitment, reminders, fewer options, strategic planning, loss disclosure and less social proof.
In addition to this, the thesis finally gave suggestions for working with nudging from an above- or below perspective (by integrating assessment questions in the decision-making process) to adjust the application of interventions.