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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Food For Thought

February 2, 2023

How Your Meal Could Be Contributing to Climate Change

Laken Scott

The food system is irresponsible and inefficient. More than ⅓ of all food grown for human consumption is never eaten. [1] Almost half of the food wasted in the U.S. is done so in the home. [2] Why are people throwing away so much food?  

It’s not that simple. People waste food for a myriad of reasons – it’s easy to do, whether due to aspirational cooking, inefficient meal planning, misunderstanding expiration dates, improper food storage, etc. No one strives to waste food - but the culture around wasting food is very forgiving. People generally think of littering as worse than wasting food. However, methane (released when food breaks down without oxygen) actually warms our globe 80 times faster than carbon dioxide, within the first 20 years it’s released. [3] Congruently, when we waste food, we also waste water, energy, and land resources. Not to mention we harm ourselves, the environment, and all its inhabitants. 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year. This totals 45 trillion gallons of water wasted yearly. [4]  

About half (40%) of U.S. land is used for agriculture. [5] This is bad news considering the impact traditional farming has on the environment. Traditional farming practices require the transportation of produce, which wastes food and energy, the usage of chemicals and pesticides, which are awful for all living things and have adverse health effects, and the process of tilling the soil, which strips its nutrients. It’s estimated that in the past 150 years, half our earth's topsoil has been destroyed through erosion, compaction, and nutrient degradation, all stripping our soil of the benefits it should provide. [6] In tandem, these factors produce fruits and vegetables lacking their natural nutritional profile.  

Food is wasted at every level. Everyone contributes to the problem. It’s both an overconsumption and supply chain problem that leads to masses of wasted food. Chad Frischmann, a climate change expert, stated, “Reducing food waste is one of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming.” [7] Food waste is a single issue that causes many others. We need innovation to adopt efficient food systems to sustain humankind.  

Reducing food waste requires action from corporations as well as consumers. It’s a massive issue, but you can still do your part to make a positive environmental impact.  

Here are some ways you can reduce personal food waste:  

 

References 

  1. Kaplan, S. (2022, November 10). A third of all food in the U.S. gets wasted. Fixing that could help fight climate change. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2021/02/25/climate-curious-food-waste/ 
  2. Toogoodtogo. (n.d.). Households. https://toogoodtogo.com/en-us/movement/households  
  3. Methane: A crucial opportunity in the Climate Fight. (2023). Environmental Defense Fund. https://www.edf.org/climate/methane-crucial-opportunity-climate-fight  
  4. Barclay, E. (2013, June 6). When you waste food, you're wasting tons of water, too. NPR. https://n.pr/3DoAEFy  
  5. Highlights. (n.d.). USDA NASS. https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Highlights/  
  6. Dupuis, A. (2022, September 7). Environmental impact of traditional & vertical farming - 2021 report. Eden Green. https://www.edengreen.com/blog-collection/environmental-impact-of-traditional-and-vertical-farming-2021-report  
  7. The movement against food waste. (n.d.). Too Good To Go. https://toogoodtogo.com/en-us/movement   
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