Identifying the barriers and opportunities for food waste prevention in Universities
: using social media as a tool for behaviour change

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research

    Abstract

    The UK Higher Education Sector is required to reduce its carbon emissions by 83% by 2050, with food and green waste representing 18% of total disposal. This is significant as the equivalent of 3.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced for every tonne of food wasted. Universities are a key setting to reduce this figure and have a responsibility to sustainably manage their waste on two fronts, firstly as sites of food waste creation, management and disposal and secondly as actors of pedagogy in educating students and staff. Despite this there is a lack of understanding of how we interact with food waste as a routine ‘cultural performance’ underpinned by our own embodied attitudes, behaviours and values.

    Within this context, this project aims to firstly identify the barriers and opportunities for preventing food waste by understanding the behaviour behind why food is wasted, and secondly exploring the possibility of using social media to influence waste practices. Using a case study of Coventry University, a mixed method approach engaged with academics, operation staff and students on different levels. A ‘Coventry University Food Network’ Twitter application was developed and tested to enable sharing of unwanted eatable food between members of the university community. Dealing with food waste was found to be a hidden practice engrained in daily routines which counteracted possible prevention. The negative connotations attached to ‘leftovers’ and ‘wasted food’ heightened people’s accepted standards of foods’ appearance, smell and touch with trust found to be an important factor in overcoming such concerns. The study found organisational barriers in the lack of accountability in auditing and disposing of food waste with health and safety procedures preventing the sharing of food. A number of recommendations are made within this setting in order to inform future behaviour change and food waste prevention projects.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SponsorsChartered Institute of Wastes Management
    SupervisorMoya Kneafsey (Supervisor) & Siraj Shaikh (Supervisor)

    Keywords

    • food waste
    • Higher Education sector
    • embodied practice
    • social media
    • behaviour change

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