Agricultural activities -whether conventional or not- require labor and energy. There are many factors to consider that go into putting food on our plates. Human labor, water usage, refrigeration, transportation, processing, storage, cooking fuels, etc.
The website https://moveforhunger.org/food-waste is dedicated to reducing hunger and writes on the costs of agriculture, “more than 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions are produced by agricultural activities”. To make matters worse, Tristram Stuart (2012) bluntly reveals, “we’re not talking about rotten stuff, we’re not talking about stuff that’s beyond the pale. We’re talking about good, fresh food that is being wasted on a colossal scale”.
There is plenty of space to improve our environmental footprint with these facts. But instead, our society has developed this habit of wasting food, which, as the website puts it, “is to needlessly contribute to climate change”.
Essentially, we are polluting our airways with tons of greenhouse gases just so we can fill our trash cans.
When these foods do end up in landfills, the results are straight toxic. Rotting food, which makes up an immense proportion of our overall waste, produces a noxious amount of methane. Author Dana Gunders (2012) discusses this issue further, “food scraps decompose and give off methane, a greenhouse gas at least 25 times more powerful in global warming as carbon dioxide… [food scraps] produce a disproportionately large component of the methane that landfills produce in the first years, often before the landfills are capped”.
We grow TONS of food, way more than what is actually needed to feed the world. Humans love surplus, but that comes at a cost. Furthermore, this overload of food STILL does not feed everyone.
For example, if a grocery store donates food every night, not all people will be able to access it because they might lack transportation, desire for certain food, or awareness. Creating ways for people to access food is one thing, but providing them with substantial, culturally appropriate food is another layer to the task. To name just one example, people may not be accustomed to cooking with “imperfect” food and may require additional education on how to use such products.
We cannot expect people to stop being hungry once we decrease factors like production or waste because we currently have a tremendous amount of food available, yet there are still people experiencing food insecurity. To make a difference, we must consider the economic and societal factors that affect food security, like income disparities and feelings of shame, not just food availability.
According to an organization called ReFed, Imperfect & Surplus Produce, Portion Sizes, and Manufacturing Byproduct Utilization are solutions that contribute to reducing emissions (https://insightsengine.refed.com/solution database?dataView=total&indicator=jobs-created).
The three variables are each fairly relevant in reducing the tons of food waste, which as per the previously answered question, equates to a decrease in methane gas as a greenhouse gas. Portion Size is the largest contributor to emissions reduction, and a great influence on water savings, as per the study findings posted.
My main intent for this post is to give you some information of why exactly food waste is so bad for our surroundings (we aren’t just wasting food – but also labor, energy, time, resources, etc. that could have been used in some other way). There’s a reason wasting food is seen as a sin in some cultures.
Before you throw it in the trash, think about how you can use it! Check out Too Good to Go on Instagram, they have some amazingly creative tips on how to reduce food waste. I’ll also be doing a review on Too Good to Go as a company in a future post!
What are your favorite ways to reduce food waste? Let us know below!!!
In Soil We Trust,
Gunders, Dana. (2012) Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food
from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council 12-06-B
Stuart, Tristram. (2012) The global food waste scandal. Ted. Youtube. Retrieved from:
Pssst. Totally recommend giving this video a listen to. Enjoy!