A Guide: Changing Behavior to Help More People Waste Less Food


Food loss and waste occurs throughout the food system – from farm through to fork. This guide focuses on food waste from households which is a significant issue in many countries.

The causes of food waste at household level are complex. There are many drivers and many behaviours, which lead to food being wasted. Many organisations and others who interact with householders have a role to play in helping people reduce the amount of food they waste – by helping to raise awareness and then helping address the barriers to reducing food waste, whether they are related to the product offering or a result of behaviours, skills and knowledge.

Champions 12.3 has collated this guide to help key actors in the food system to focus on how they can help consumers reduce food waste through behaviour change.


  • More than a third of food is lost or wasted annually worldwide. This amounts to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and more than $1 trillion in financial losses.
  • Consumer food waste occurs at the retail, food service, and household stages of the food supply chain and accounts for 17% of global food production (61% households, 26% food service and 13% retail) (UNEP 2021). Recent estimates suggest that household food waste accounts for a large share of consumer waste regardless of a country’s GDP.
  • Recognising the urgent need for strategies addressing consumer food waste, Champions 12.3 brought together in June 2021 food waste experts from around the world, including many with behavioural change expertise, for a workshop to generate promising strategies based on experience and evidence.
  • This guide organises the content generated from this workshop into categories for five key actors in the food system: policy makers, food businesses, non-food businesses, non-profits, and educators/other influencers. It then provides actions they can take to help address consumer food waste.
  • There is no single solution which will result in sustainable behaviour change to reduce household food waste. Initiatives should consist of partnerships between the different actors and should be evidence-based, using an appropriate behavioural change model wherever possible. They should use a combination of raising awareness together with practical tips and tools to increase “ability” and “opportunity” to reduce food waste.
  • The guide has sought to illustrate the approaches using real life examples. However, there are still only a small number of examples of behaviour change approaches being used with consumers where the impact and effectiveness has been properly evaluated. This guide can therefore only be a starting point. More examples are needed, especially from the global South.
  • The evidence suggests that changing consumer behaviours is not easy. Simple awareness raising is not enough. It is important to understand the drivers for food being wasted at a household level and real change requires a mix of interventions that target specific behaviours. This will best be achieved by a partnership of actors in the food system working together.