İyi haber: bugün insanlar atık gıdanın sosyal, ekonomik ve çevresel bir felaket olduğunun daha çok farkındalar.
Son zamanlarda yapılan araştırmalar problemin boyutlarını gözler önüne sererken, sivil toplum ve medya çarpıcı istatistikleri kamuoyunun gündemine taşımaya devam ediyor. Örneğin sadece Amerika'da her hafta toplam üretilen gıdanın %40'ının çöpe gittiğini, tüm bunlar olurken hala her altı kişiden birinin aç kaldığını biliyor muydunuz?
Tüketicinin konuya gösterdiği ilgi karşısında kayıtsız kalmayan bir takım kurum ve organizasyonlar, gıda atığı ile olan ilişkilerini yeniden şekillendirmeye başladılar bile.
Fakat son zamanlarda yapılan bir araştırma, tüketici eğitimi ve kurumsal etki eforlarının, beklenilenin tam tersi bir sonuç doğuracağı savını ortaya attı.
Kamuoyunu davranış biçimlerini değiştirme konusunda ikna etmeWhen it comes to convincing the public to actually change its behavior, a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing. Related Freeganism: food waste’s first wave The study comes out of Ohio State University, but it was inspired by the ReFed report, a road map generated by a coalition of non-profit and business leaders that lays out a strategy for reducing food waste 50 percent by 2050. According to ReFed, waste reduction efforts should have three pillars. The first is prevention, which includes educating the public about the scope of the problem, essentially shaming us into wasting less. The other pillars are recovery (finding ways to waste less food at farms and packinghouses) and recycling (making sure the food that does get wasted goes to composting facilities, not the landfill). But according to the Ohio study, large-scale recovery and recycling efforts may actually counteract education-based prevention efforts aimed at individuals. In other words, the more we know about the good work that businesses, institutions, and municipalities are doing, the less likely we are to change our own personal habits. Recycling policies work at cross purposes with reduction policies In the study, participants were given a free meal in exchange for answering questions about a brochure on the negative impacts of food waste. (A control group was given an info sheet on financial literacy instead.) Half of the participants were told that the session’s leftover food would be sent to the landfill; the rest were told that it would be composted by the university. Guilt, it turns out, is a powerful motivator. The group that was told the food would be thrown out generated 58 percent less waste. Whereas the group that that was told the food would be composted wasted only slightly less than the control group, which received no information whatsoever about food waste’s detrimental effects. It was as if the existence of a composting program gave them license to waste. And that’s troubling, because composting, while still vastly preferable to landfilling, is not a silver bullet. We still waste untold resources growing, distributing, and refrigerating food that is headed for the compost bin. Participants who knew their food waste would be composted left a lot more on the plate University of Ohio. Participants who knew their food waste would be composted left a lot more on the plate As the study’s co-authors put it: “Recycling policies work at cross purposes with reduction policies when consumers are made aware that other actors will mitigate the negative environmental effects of any consumer food waste created.” When I spoke with Brian Roe, one of the study’s co-authors, he suggested that the findings were evidence of the “single action bias.” When we want to make a difference, we usually will perform one small action and go no further. (Researchers have an oddly poetic name for this attention deficit: they call it our “limited pool of worry.”) This is what activists have to contend with whenever they try to mobilize the public around a cause. Related Baldor’s bold new plan to feed us fruit and veggie scraps But Roe’s study suggests the single action bias is even more insidious than previously thought. It’s not just that we think a single personal gesture is going to be good enough—it’s that even someone else’s gesture is enough to stop us from altering our behavior. We’re happy, in other words, to delegate the “single action” to someone else. So, do bold new programs inadvertently let consumers off easy, making us less vigilant about our own personal conduct? And rather than celebrating advances in the fight against food waste, would we be better off sticking with plain old guilt? This creates a conundrum for anyone who cares about food waste. If we trust the study’s results, businesses, institutions, and municipalities might be better off keeping quiet about the good work they’re doing. It’s too soon to say, and more research needs to be done. But as the progressive food community continues to try to engage the public on the most urgent issues, they should be clear-eyed. We all want to do the right thing, but apparently not as much as we want to let ourselves off the hook.
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Joe Fassler is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. For TheAtlantic.com, he edits “By Heart,” an interview series about writing, literary influence, and the creative process; an anthology based on the column is forthcoming from Penguin Books. His food safety and public health reporting has been a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award in Journalism. Follow him @joefassler