A video-ethnography study

A look at food waste from inside the home

A video-ethnography study

This exploratory study, funded by NSW EPA, sought to understand the food waste behaviours of family-based households to inform future intervention strategies to reduce household food waste. We used a video-ethnography approach to gain insights from within households, something which is - to the best of our knowledge - a first-of-its-kind study in Australia.

What did we do?

To better understand what happens inside people’s homes, OzHarvest engaged BehaviourWorks Australia to conduct a study on food waste behaviours among family-based households.

Knowing there is a big difference between what people say they do, and what they do in real life, the research team used video-ethnography as a research method to get closer to food waste-related behaviours such as planning for shopping, storing and cooking food.

Video-ethnography is a method of study that allows researchers to observe a person’s spontaneous everyday behaviours and practices. Videos were recorded by the participating families themselves, where they were asked to video themselves at two steps:

  1. During ‘unpacking’ or ‘meal preparation’, and
  2. When watching their videos of ‘unpacking’ or ‘meal preparation’ to reflect on their actions.

The in-depth qualitative study involved the parents of 13 families from across Australia and gave the team a unique insight into their daily lives. 

What we found

In line with other food waste consumer research, the study highlighted that non-conscious factors are key barriers to changing food waste behaviours and practices.

Food related behaviours in households  – particularly amongst time-poor families – are largely driven by habits and routines. People, therefore, have little ‘mental capacity’ to change their behaviours to potentially reduce food waste. Furthermore, much of their behaviours are influenced by the food-related needs and wants of their children, and are also influenced beyond their control by what is available in supermarkets. 

Read more about our video-ethnography study:

Read our paper

What came next?

Raising awareness and using informational approaches to address the issue is unlikely to be effective on their own. Other strategies are needed to better change food related habits and reduce household food waste.

In 2020, we continued our partnership with OzHarvest to better understand ‘which behaviours matter’ in our mission to reduce household food waste across Australia. Read more about our project:

Which behaviours matter?