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2015.01.1
Social Psychology x Food Waste Reduction

In today’s world, students want to learn outside the classroom to replace the traditional one-way teaching approach. To enhance the real-world learning experience, HKUST Center for Enhanced Learning and Teaching provides funding to support different Innovative Teaching Development Projects. The “Fundamentals of Social Psychology” course was one of them, students were challenged to use their understanding of social psychology to develop solutions to one of the real and pressing problems on campus – the waste of food from the canteens. Three student teams selected the problems of food waste and spent the semester designing campaigns to stimulate changes to wasteful behaviors.

As the frontline practitioner, colleagues from the Sustainability Unit shared their experience and gave guidance to students on current situation of food waste issue on campus. Students selected and applied a narrow set of social psychology concepts in the context of sustainability to study human behavior related to food waste. Based on the analysis, they formulated strategies and campaigns as proposed solutions. Through active discussion and feedback from practitioners and stakeholders, students were able to deliver innovative strategies to engage the campus community. 

One student group suggested tactic of designing posters about famine in Africa in tray-returning area, expecting this would create a strong comparison between different living conditions and guilty feeling to students. Another group came up with the idea of distributing green trays for those who order less rice option to recognize their contribution and create an identity. This would induce conformity behavior and encourage more students to take positive action. The plethora of ideas resulted in a number of new strategies now being considered for employment in the canteens. The innovative teaching model helped students to connect theories to real-life cases and enabled them to make real-world impacts. 

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Students came up with the idea of distributing green trays for those who order less rice option to recognize their contribution and create an identity.