Subscribe

Wasted food contributes to climate change

Approximately one out of every four calories produced to feed people is actually consumed.

  • close
    Tyson foods Inc and Hillshire Brands Jimmy Dean sausages are shown in this photo illustration in Encinitas, Calif.
    Mike Blake/Reuters/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Approximately one out of every four calories produced to feed people is not consumed. A 2016 report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) says that about 40 percent of the total estimated food losses and waste in North America are a result of consumer behavior.

Recently, food waste, defined as food that is thrown away before or after it spoils, has been placed on the forefront of Americans’ minds. According to Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED), awareness has increased for many reasons: to combat environmental degradation while feeding a growing population, to fix economic inefficiencies in the food supply chain, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from landfills.

A U.S. survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation explored why food waste happens at the consumer level. According to the results, eaters either forget about perishable food until it’s too late (19 percent), buy too much fresh or perishable food (17 percent), cook big meals and throw away leftovers (8 percent), or serve themselves portions that are too big (7 percent).

Recommended: 15 favorite comfort food recipes

To put food waste into perspective, ReFED published the Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 percent in 2016. The report provides a helpful visual, “If all of our country’s wasted food was grown in one place, it would cover roughly 80 million acres, over 75 percent of the state of California, and consume all the water used in California, Texas, and Ohio combined. The mega-farm would harvest enough food to fill a 40-ton tractor every 20 seconds. Many of those trailers would distribute food to grocery stores…instead of being purchased, this perfectly good food would be loaded onto another line of trucks and hauled to a landfill.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that uneaten food in landfills accounts for roughly 20 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Plus, methane is about 27 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat. According to a 2016 study conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), greenhouse gas emissions related to the food supply quadrupled during the last 50 years. The EPA emphasizes the problem—food is now the second-largest source of methane emission in the U.S.

The Think.Eat.Save campaign is a great example of what consumers can do to conserve food and prevent waste. This campaign, founded by Save Food as a joint initiative between UNEP, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Messe Düsseldorf, provides consumers, retailers, and communities with advice on ways to reduce their food waste. Additionally, Think.Eat.Save advocates for food conservation in other ways, like policy recommendations.

In general, learning about the problem and taking action is one of the best ways to reduce food waste. For the average consumer, ReFED cited education as the most important way to significantly reduce food waste.

This story originally appeared on Food Tank.

 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK