December 12, 2016 | General

Tackling Food Waste Via Consumer Education

The NRDC and Ad Council “Save The Food” public service campaign compels consumers to make simple lifestyle changes to reduce food waste.

Dana Gunders
BioCycle December 2016


Most Americans don’t realize how much food they toss out each year. However, according to the recent ReFED Roadmap report (see “The ReFED Roadmap To Reducing Food Waste,” June 2016), consumers are responsible for about 43 percent of food waste, which is more than any other part of the food supply chain.
Given the large role they play, consumers must be part of the answer if this trend is going to be turned around. Through the “Save The Food” national public service campaign launched in April 2016, the Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are aiming to change household behavior to reduce food waste, and in turn, minimize environmental and economic impacts. By showcasing the wondrous life cycle of food and the loss of resources when it goes unconsumed, the “Save The Food” campaign compels consumers to make simple lifestyle changes using tips and tools from like making shopping lists, freezing food and using leftovers to significantly reduce their food waste.
Since its launch, the “Save The Food” campaign has seen solid uptake. “The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry” PSA (public service announcement) video has garnered over 12 million views while the campaign continues to receive millions in donated media value. The campaign has experienced strong engagement with over 206,000 visits on and over 18,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s been featured in high profile media outlets including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Time and Fast Company, with just the top 10 press hits reaching over 31 million people.
Of course, real impact is what’s most important and also most difficult to measure. The campaign is tracking self-reported behavior change through surveys, but it’s too early to see a result there. However, a notable shift in attitude is already apparent: the number of survey respondents who strongly agree that food waste is a big problem in the U.S. has risen from 51 percent to 56 percent since the campaign launched.

Using The Campaign

“Save the Food” is a multiyear campaign consisting of TV airtime for the PSA, print and digital advertising (outside of the home), and digital tools that can be viewed across the country and online. All campaign ads are free to download and use.
Here are a few examples of how local municipalities and waste haulers are using the campaign:
• The Burbank (CA) Recycle Center (BRC) has adopted the campaign to educate residents and businesses about food waste. It has put “Save The Food” ads on bus shelters and waste trucks throughout the city. Additionally, the BRC included information about “Save The Food” in its Fall 2016 newsletter mailed to residents. Similar to other cities and counties within California, the City of Burbank is working in response to the state’s mandatory commercial organics recycling law that requires businesses and multifamily residents to recycle organic waste. Leveraging the “Save The Food” campaign is one way to help prevent food waste from the start.
• Santa Clara County (CA) received $5,000 in funding to support the campaign. The Ad Council’s media contact agreed to donate out-of-home ad space within the county as long as the county covered the printing costs. Since the Ad Council focuses on placing the campaign ads nationwide, this strategy guarantees that the Save The Food ads will be placed within a specific area.
• GreenWaste Recovery, a private hauling and recycling and diversion company based in San Jose (CA) that services portions of California’s Monterey Peninsula and the counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo, put “Save The Food” ads on several of their waste collection vehicles.
• Metro Government of Nashville (TN) placed “Save The Food” ads on local digital billboards.
NRDC wants to share its “Save The Food” campaign in as many ways as possible. To download creative ads, use the link in the online version of this article. For questions or requests to co-brand or resize any of the ads, email
Dana Gunders is the leading expert on food waste at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and is author of “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook.”

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