Image: University of California
Food waste occurs on every level of the supply chain – from harvest fields to restaurants to our refrigerators at home. This waste ends up in landfills where it takes up a large portion of our very limited space.
Research shows that the U.S. throws out approximately 400 pounds of food per person per year. And when all of that food is wasted, so are the resources that went into producing it. The production of this wasted food also wasted land, water, labor, and other valuable resources.
The Facts on Food Waste:
- 21% of the U.S. agricultural water usage is used for food that is later thrown away (fresh water is one of the planet’s most valuable resources!)
- Food waste accounts for over 20% of landfill content (we are quickly running out of landfill space)
- Roughly 40% of the food we produce never gets eaten (this comes out to be around 365 million pounds per day)
- In developed countries, the largest percentage of food waste comes from consumers at home (this means as consumers, we have the opportunity to make the biggest impact!)
- In the United States, food waste has an economic value of 218 billion dollars per year
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) completed an assessment that evaluated food waste to contribute 6.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we try to visualize this data, we might compare food waste to a country; it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (behind China and the United States.)
Ultimately, food waste plays a big role in global carbon emissions. But this also means it has the opportunity to make a large impact if we can address the issues within our current food systems.
Check out this video if you are interested in learning more about the ways in which we can reduce our food waste! Bonus: this video shows an excerpt about UC Santa Barbara’s food waste reduction efforts.
What We Can Do:
The best way to reduce our food waste is to actively be more mindful about our purchases and to divert as much waste from the landfill as possible.
Only buy what you need.
Do you often find yourself throwing out produce that has gone bad? You are probably overestimating the amount of food your family will eat within the week. Try to buy less – you can always take an extra trip to the grocery store if it’s absolutely necessary!
Do you forget about food in the refrigerator?
If you have a habit of “losing” food in the back of the fridge, try to do regular clean out to remind yourself of the products you already have. Always take inventory of your current products before heading to the grocery store for more food!
Do you have catering leftovers after an office party?
You can always reach out to shelters in your area to see if they are in need of food donations. If you can’t find a place that accepts donations, send leftovers home with your coworkers!
Do you have unopened food that you know you won’t eat before its expiration date?
Donate to a local shelter, or call your local food bank to see if they will accept donations!
What should you do with the food that you can’t donate or eat?
If it’s feasible, you should use a home compost system! Composting ensures your food waste will decompose rather than take up space in the landfill. If you don’t have your own compost system, see if there is a local compost where you can drop off your food scraps.
Our Planet Thanks You,