According to Bloom, one of the most challenging misperceptions may be how we view scarcity and abundance. “We want to have plenty of food because for millennia as a species we haven’t been able to just go out to the store and buy plenty,” he explains. “There still is that slight feeling of not necessarily knowing where the next meal is coming from.” To the children and grandchildren of the Great Depression or other tight times, buying and preparing more food than is needed can be a sign of everything from love to having “made it.” Love Food Hate Waste is working to counteract quantity misperceptions with free portion planning tools to help cooks prepare appropriate amounts of food. Other strategies include simply using smaller plates, which can provide the sense of abundance while reducing the temptation to overserve.

Noting that amount of food wasted correlates with demographic factors such as household size, age, and employment status, Love Food Hate Waste reminds us that an important part of any campaign is to figure out the target audiences and their specific interests, needs, and limitations. Food: Too Good To Waste also underscores the importance of engaging consumers with messages and opportunities often, rather than taking a “one and done” approach.

Cool and competitive

As in many things, though, turning the trend has a lot to do with making it cool. Juul, for example, places a high premium on avoiding food shaming and instead focusing on engaging people with edgy, upbeat messaging; a vast social media presence; a lively TEDx talk; and a make-it-cool-to-conserve approach. “What is really important is to deliver a positive message,” she says. “If you have a negative message, like ‘the big, bad supermarkets’ or ‘the big, bad consumers,’ they won’t listen.”

I Value Food offers consumers a way to turn about-to-be-wasted food into a party with instructions for hosting a Salvage Supperclub. In a similar vein, Love Food Hate Waste plays off the “foodie” trend, focusing on food’s value as a source of pleasure and a creative outlet—encouraging people to take a creative approach to preparing ugly or leftover food, for instance. With its Foodwise campaign, Australia-based Do Something! provides recipes from celebrity chefs using leftovers.

Competitions are a popular tool, too. The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department’s Food Waste Reduction program, for example, encourages members of the public to upload photos of their empty restaurant plates to a special Facebook page for a chance to win a prize. Love Food Hate Waste initiatives include poster contests and school-based races to reduce waste.

Encouraging trends

Clearly there is no shortage of initiatives to educate and inspire consumers to keep food out of the trash. But do they work?

Making cause-and-effect connections between the various strategies these campaigns employ and the amount of food wasted is difficult. But concurrent trends are encouraging.

For example, communities participating in Food Too Good to Waste saw a reduction in preventable food waste of 11% to 48% by weight (27% to 39% by volume). Avoidable household food waste in the UK has dropped 21% since the Love Food Hate Waste program began in 2007. A 2013 survey showed that half of Danes reported reducing their food waste over the previous year, and food waste has declined 25% in Denmark over the past five years.

Juul attributes that success to a variety of campaign strategies by Stop Wasting Food, including getting the attention of media, engaging via social media, avoiding alignment with a particular political ideology and using a variety of messages to avoid tiring people out. But, she says, ultimately it all boils down to one simple thing: convincing consumers that reducing food waste is simple and worthwhile.

“The main message for consumers is, ‘Start doing something on your own because it is so easy,’” she says. “It is so easy to go to the kitchen, see what you already have in your fridge, use your leftovers, and be creative. It will really save you so much time, so much money—it’s a win-win situation, and it’s also good for the environment.”

This post originally appeared at Ensia.  

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