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A study from American communications firm Shelton Group has revealed that food waste is the number one cause of consumer guilt amongst consumers.

Food Waste Study

Whilst we’re often bombarded with advertisements on how to correctly recycle our food packaging or to forego watering our lawn, the ‘Eco Pulse’ survey has revealed that most people felt the most ‘green guilt’ over wasting food.

Fifth annual incarnation of the survey discovered that, of the 1,013 people polled, more people felt most conscious over throwing away a hamburger than leaving the lights on when leaving a room (27%), wasting water (27%), failing to unplug chargers for electronics (22%), not recycling (21%) and forgetting to bring reusable bags to the store (20%).

At the other end of the scale, consumers felt the least guilt about not buying energy-efficient light bulbs (9%), not sticking to an energy-efficient thermostat setting (7%), not being careful about how long or when they watered the lawn (6%) and using chemical lawn or plant fertilisers (6%)

The survey’s organisers say that, whilst such a guilt over food waste likely means it’s one of the most common forms of ‘bad’ green behaviour, the future could be bright for food waste management because of it’s place in the poll.

“Guilt can be a powerful motivator to get you off your back side to do the right thing,” said Chief Executive Suzanne Shelton, who works with companies and organisations to develop strategies that promote sustainability. “We wanted to understand if there is green guilt and what are the things consumers feel guilty about.”

Shelton says that their results prove that appealing to people’s sense of the economic costs (both on a global and personal level) have proven unsuccessful, and that companies should instead be looking for innovate ways to find “solutions that offer a get-out-of-guilt-free card,”.

Examples on the issue of both personal and commercial food recycling were using text, email or instant messages to remind people when the items they’ve bought will expire or provide recipes for leftovers would both help provide small steps forward on the issue.

Other interesting trends to come out of the report included that women felt more green guilt over food waste than men, whilst middle-class households felt the worst over wasting food than upper class families.

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