Nudging in the cafeteria

Nudge opens with a hypothetical example of a cafeteria manager faced with a decision about how to arrange the food, given his knowledge that placing certain food items in certain places will boost or limit consumption of certain items.

We’ve come across some actual experiments at two college campuses – the University of Connecticut and Alfred University in New York – by students and managers interested in seeing how changing cafeteria options would affect student behavior. Their interest was not healthy eating, however, it was waste. Seeing how easy it was to load up a tray with extra food that often goes uneaten, managers at the two universities test a trayless policy.

Students (at Alfred) ran a test last semester showing that on two days when trays weren’t offered, food and beverage waste dropped between 30 and 50 percent, according to Kathy Woughter, vice president for student affairs at Alfred. That amounts to about 1,000 pounds of solid waste and 112 gallons of liquid waste saved on a weekly basis, according to the college.Without trays to wash, water consumption also decreased. Woughter said students might also find themselves a little lighter in the waist as a result of the policy.

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