Although all of us can agree that some bites just don’t taste good, food waste is a huge issue in our world. 166 billion dollars worth of food waste is the accumulation of years of mismanagement, which we can’t just blame on someone’s picky little brother.
Food waste often happens through overharvesting, high standards, consumer behavior, and expiration. As customers increasingly desire to consume food that is perfectly shaped, such as straight carrots and only the crispiest lettuce, anything subpar is thrown away. Additionally, the behavior of taking more food than actually eaten results in food trashed or saved until expired.
Just preparing food has a huge impact on the environment. In regards to greens, the process of watering, fertilizing, and rotating crops requires vast resources and infrastructure that is constantly updated due to erosion and updated technology. Furthermore, transporting food across the country to a region that doesn’t naturally support that crop uses fuel, human resource, and capital.
Meat has an even larger carbon footprint due to the water, food, and machinery required to raise and process animals. Additionally, a lot of land is required to raise animals. For larger animals such as cows, which need up to 8 acres per animal, farms occupy square mileage that would have formerly been filled with photosynthesizing plants. According to the UN’s FAO, meat accounts for 14.5% of carbon emissions.
These food groups all create methane gas when they decompose, which is even more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane is better at trapping temperatures and is the first gas to be released from deposits such as icebergs, resulting in an endless cycle of warming. Approximately 34% of methane emissions are said to be from food waste itself.
The EPA has recently announced many alarming updates regarding the state of American food waste. For one, they have stated that food is accounting for roughly half of all methane emissions and are even calling out to legislators to help states in cutting down on food waste. Some cities are enforcing trash sorting policies where garbage is closely inspected or separated by the users so that food can be disposed of in a more environmental-friendly manner.
The later in the process that food is wasted, the more negative its impacts will be as more energy and resources will have gone into producing that food. We can directly help this by purchasing our groceries wisely to avoid wastage, planning out our meals, and being more mindful about our choices to revise the culinary supply and demand system to serve both our needs and the environment’s needs.