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Making food waste engaging

Victorians throw out thousands of tonnes (and dollars worth) of food every year.  Sustainability Victoria has come up with a video campaign – the Love-a-List-Challenge – to highlight how much of our bins contain avoidable food waste, but how do you make that phrase engaging?

Like any behaviour change, it takes a number of different approaches to get the message across and call the audience to action.   

Let’s identify some of the behavioural science behind the Love-a-list Challenge. 

The ‘Like’ factor

Cal Wilson, much-loved comedian and TV host, presents the video in her own charming and quirky style.  She’s cheeky enough to ask the probing questions about what we throw out (and why), but funny enough that we don’t mind.

She’s not trying to make us angry or ashamed, and not judging us – she’s onside and one of us.

We love a challenge

When a behaviour is pitched as a contest (even if we’re competing against ourselves and our habits), it becomes much edgier and immediate.  Add a deadline and a video diary to share thoughts, successes and ups and downs, and it becomes a true story where we want to know the ending. 


Three families are chosen as part of the challenge (to reduce their household waste over 4 weeks).

They’re not living like millionaires or off-grid in a tent, they’re relatable and appealing because they live like many of us do. The mums see other mums, the dads other dads, and we begin to believe that if they can do this, we can too.

Keep it simple

Being specific about the target behaviour – making a shopping list – gives the overall message a clear focus.  While there are plenty of good reasons to plan ahead (planning is a key predictor of behaviour), it’s that one behaviour change that is set up, repeated and emphasised throughout. 


We like doing good things for others as well as ourselves.  Telling people they can save the planet, save time and save money appeals to different mindsets without any contradictions or trade-offs at all. 

Feel good

While there are many rational reasons to change the way we make decisions (I understand chocolate is high in calories), the truth is we are more often driven by emotions than logic (but I loooooove chocolate).

The emotional ‘hook’ that gets us into the story of these families is that we like them and want to see them achieve something.

It doesn’t just make sense, it makes us feel something. Campaigns like this bring together science and creativity to create audience engagement.

Simply telling people about a problem doesn’t prompt action to fix it – it takes a range of skills and disciplines to carry the message and hopefully, bring about real change.