Through my research on the dual challenges of food waste and food insecurity, I have identified numerous causes and consequences of these two issues from various perspectives. In doing so, I have developed the “Compost for Life” campaign by addressing the barriers to sustainable change and exploring strategies for overcoming these barriers and enacting positive change. Through its implementation at various grocery stores, the purpose of Compost for Life is to reduce food waste and food insecurity at both the individual and institutional levels.
By targeting individual action and institutional policy, this program aims to decrease the amount of food that is wasted in households and grocery stores, reduce the harmful effects of food waste on biodiversity and global climate change, and provide more food to those suffering from food insecurity. Compost for Life is comprised of three components:
1. Compost from Grocery Stores
- Goal: To implement Compost for Life at Grocery Stores by:
- Creating composting sites for grocery store companies to compost their own unsold and expired products that would otherwise go to waste and end up in landfills.
- Establishing a Compost for Life drop-off desk or integrating it with the store’s service center desk in order to collect compostable waste and donatable food from shoppers.
- Incorporating Compost for Life into the grocery store companies’ membership rewards programs in order to incentivize existing members to participate in the program and to encourage non-members to sign up for the rewards program.
- Target Audience: Management teams and executive boards of grocery store companies.
- Strategy: Incentivize grocery store participation in Compost for Life by demonstrating the financial benefits of reducing product waste and the marketing benefits of offering membership rewards, as well as the capacity of the program to bolster the company’s public image.
- Metrics for Success:
- Amount of Compost: Weight (lbs) of products composted by participating stores each month.
- Reduction in Waste: Percent reduction in wasted products, measured by quantifying the store’s average weight (lbs) of food waste before the program’s implementation compared to the store’s monthly weight (lbs) of food waste diverted from landfills and composted by the store.
2. Compost from Shoppers
- Goal: To encourage grocery store shoppers who do not currently compost at home to:
- Stop throwing away compostable materials and begin collecting their organic waste in a separate bin from their trash.
- Routinely bring their collected waste with them to the grocery store when they go shopping in order for the store to collect and compost their waste.
- Target Audience: Individual grocery store shoppers who do not have the time, space, resources, or mentality to commit to composting at home.
- Strategy: Incentivize individual participation by incorporating Compost for Life into the store’s membership rewards program and offering coupons and rewards points for customers every time they bring their compostable waste to the store.
- Metrics for Success:
- Amount of Collection: Weight (lbs) of compostable waste collected by grocery stores from shoppers each month.
- Number of Participants: Number of individual shoppers who bring their collected waste to the store each month.
- Continuation of Participation: Number of times each individual shopper brings their collected waste to the store each year.
3. Food Donations from Shoppers
- Goal: To encourage grocery store shoppers to reduce their waste and donate food by:
- Routinely going through their kitchen and collecting any unopened cans, bags, or other sealed and unexpired food products that they no longer plan on consuming.
- Bringing these unopened food products with them to the grocery store when they go shopping in order for the store to collect and donate their extra products to food banks.
- Target Audience: Individual grocery store shoppers who do not consume all of the food products they purchase.
- Strategy: Incentivize individual participation by offering coupons and rewards points through the store’s membership rewards program every time customers donate their unopened food products to the store.
- Metrics for Success:
- Amount of Donations: Weight (lbs) of food donated by shoppers each month.
- Number of Participants: Number of individual shoppers who donate food each month.
- Continuation of Participation: Number of times each individual shopper donates food each year.
While its ultimate goal is to reduce global food waste and food insecurity, Compost for Life also benefits the participating grocery stores because consumers appreciate, and often seek out, companies that implement sustainable policies. In addition to improving their public image, grocery store companies that incorporate Compost for Life into their membership rewards program are likely to build clientele and increase customer loyalty.
This program also benefits the customers through the rewards program, and it offers an accessible and convenient means for individuals to practice sustainability. One of the most prevalent barriers to sustainable change is the perception of inconvenience and the difficulty in taking the first step. Though many individuals want to adopt more sustainable practices, they often remain stagnant because taking initiative can feel daunting. For example, a lot of people are interested in composting their organic waste, but they either lack the resources or space to compost at home, or they think that researching composting methods and setting up their own composting system will consume their time and energy. Compost for Life eliminates this barrier by providing individuals with the means to simply and conveniently take initiative and begin composting. Sustainable change will seem significantly more manageable for individuals once Compost for Life helps them take that first step.
Overall, the mission for Compost for Life is to reduce global food waste and food insecurity. Since grocery stores infamously waste enormous amounts of food, creating composting sites for grocery store companies will divert food waste from landfills and will mitigate the associated issues with biodiversity loss and climate change. In addition to reducing waste at the institutional level by composting their own products, stores that participate in Compost for Life will help to reduce waste at the individual level by collecting compostable materials and donatable food from customers. While collecting unopened and unwanted food products reduces household waste by diverting food from landfills, donating these products to food banks also decreases global food insecurity. Compost for Life aims to enact change on a lifelong scale, as well as to improve the quality of life for current and future generations.