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Consumer-citizens as active reducers of food waste

Tampere University
Area of focusSociety

Consumer food waste is currently one of the most impactful sustainability challenges. Finding solutions requires the empowerment of consumers and their networks. At the core of this research project is the consumer-citizen who actively reduces food waste. We approach this phenomenon by using four interrelated perspectives. Our aim is:

  • To describe and analyse consumption practices aimed at reducing food waste
  • To identify heterogeneous collectives involved in the activity of reducing consumer food waste
  • To identify socio-cultural discourses related to consumer food waste reduction  
  • To identify and develop market system activities and solutions related to reducing consumer food waste


During different stages of food production and consumption, about one third of food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost globally. Especially in the developed countries, the biggest contributors to this problem are households (40 % of food waste). In Finland, the yearly environmental consequences of this equals to CO2 emissions of 100 000 cars.  

Whereas previous research has focused on consumer attitudes and the reasons why food waste emerges, our project focuses on active reduction of food waste. In our view, the key to changing behavior is not in changing peoples attitudes or influencing their individual decisions regarding sustainability. Rather, focus should be moved toward collective and private consumer practices, socially shared meanings as well as complex actor-networks in which these activities take place. By combining different theoretical approaches and innovative research methods we will contribute to academic discourses around sustainability, consumption and citizenship, consumption-driven market mechanisms, and materiality of consumption. Our study has practical implications for businesses, policy-makers and consumers.


Närvänen, E., Mesiranta, N., Mattila, M. & Heikkinen, A. (toim.) (2020). Food waste management: Solving the Wicked Problem. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Mattila, M., Mesiranta, N., Närvänen, E., Koskinen, O., & Sutinen, U.-M. (2019). Dances with potential food waste: Organising temporality in food waste reduction practices. Time & Society 28:41619–1644.

Närvänen, E., Mattila, M. & Mesiranta, N. (2019). Consumer-citizens as leaders of change: Case food waste. Teoksessa Kangas, A., Kujala J., Heikkinen, A.,Lönnqvist, A., Laihonen, H., & Bethwaite, J. (toim.) Leading change in a complex world: Transdisciplinary perspectives. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 263–280. Luettavissa:

Sirola, N., Sutinen, U., Närvänen, E., Mesiranta, N. & Mattila, M. (2019). Mottainai!—A Practice Theoretical Analysis of Japanese Consumers’ Food Waste Reduction. Sustainability 11(23)

Koskinen, O., Mattila, M., Närvänen, E., & Mesiranta, N. (2018). Hoiva ruokahävikin vähentämisen arkisissa käytännöissä. Alue ja Ympäristö, 47:2, 17–31.

Mattila, M., Mesiranta, N., Heikkinen, A. & Turunen, S. (2018). Creating value from food waste: Case ResQ Club. Teoksessa A. K. Dey, & T. Thatchenkery, (Eds.), Advances in Social Change Leadership & Organizational Decision Making. New Delhi: Bloomsbury Publishing India Pvt. Ltd, pp. 132

Närvänen, E., Mesiranta, N., & Mattila, M. (2018). Roles of consumer-citizens in food waste reduction. Kulutustutkimus.Nyt, 12:1–2, 20–32.

Närvänen, E., Mesiranta, N., Sutinen, U-M. & Mattila, M. (2018). Creativity, aesthetics and ethics of food waste in social media campaigns. Journal of Cleaner Production, 195, 102110.  

Närvänen, E., Mesiranta, N., & Hukkanen, A. (2016). The quest for an empty fridge. Teoksessa Cappellini, B., Marshall, D., & Parsons, E. (toim.) The Practice of the Meal: Food, Families and the Market Place. Abingdon: Routledge, ss. 208–219.

Funding source

Emil Aaltonen Foundation

Contact persons

Elina Närvänen

PhD, docent, principal investigator

elina.narvanen [at]



Nina Mesiranta

PhD, Researcher

nina.mesiranta [at]

+358 50 5325 295


Malla Mattila

PhD, Researcher

malla.mattila [at]

+358 50 4048 048