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Empowering Households to Reduce their Waste

Karen Cannard

Organized at 3 PM GMT on 21st October, 2015




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Zoë Lenkiewicz moderated the panel


The first 20 minutes of the panel discussion was not recorded owing to technical difficulties. We apologise for the same.
Madhumitha Rajendran has put together a quick summary of the panel and some of her favourite quotes from the panelists for you.

KAREN CANNARD, The Rubbish Diet

The Rubbish Diet focusses on delivering the message from a communications perspective, by finding inspirational persons who can deliver it to their set of peers.

    • We are all different, with different values and experiences, and live differently, and hence a one-size-message-fits-all will not work.
    • My work is focused on talking to people and finding out what will make them recycle more and better.
    • Looking at people’s habits and asking them which aspect they can change, people generally are eager to change the way they measure food while cooking.
    • To reduce food waste: Buy what you need, cook as much as you can, store it in a freezer, and heat it when needed.

Top tips: Treat it like a diet, set a target, and see how much you are reducing over the week. Find out recycling possibilities in your locality, as many people are not aware of the available options.

PETER LEFORT, Resource Futures and Oxfordshire Community Action Group

Most effective messages to communicate to people to reduce waste:

  • Why are people throwing stuff away? – Is it because they have no time, or is it due to a lack of information.
  • Personal message is the key. When you are engaging someone, tell them why it is important to you, and not point out what they are doing wrong. Avoid telling them that this is your fault, and send out a positive and friendly message. You can empower people by telling them if they do certain things, it can have a huge impact.
  • Talking to people and finding the common ground is important. Food is easier to talk about than other waste streams like clothes, furniture and electronics. Think about how to frame the message, based on who you are talking to and try to keep the dialogue ongoing, to prevent it from being forgotten.

Steps in a long term engagement campaign for residents in any community project:

  • First step is to make contact in a geographical community and talk to people in a positive way.
  • Organize informational events like film screenings, speeches and practical demonstrations.
  • Develop skills through cooking programs, sewing classes, bike and electrical repair workshops, etc. It gives people the confidence, and they can share it with others through formal training programs, or with friends and family. Hence, skills can gradually trickle down through the community.
  • Visit to an anaerobic digestion facility (or any other waste handling facility) to see what happens to the food waste.
  • These activities are available and accessible to all, and people can choose and pick activities.
  • Swap shops have had the best response. Anti- waste, directly meaning anti- consumption is a hard message to sell, and swap shops offer an alternative, in terms of social aspects and the excitement of getting new items.

ZOE LENKIEWICZ, Waste Communications Expert

Most people think communications is all about broadcasting, but actually 80% is only listening.

  • Only when you listen to people you want to communicate to, you can find out what makes them tick, and then present the subject in a way they are going to be able to relate to.
  • Aiding people to set goals for themselves helps them feel a sense of achievement once they reach their goal. This motivates householders.
  • People feel proud when they gain new skills; we have lost many skills grandparents had; repair cafes reskill people to take care of their items.


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