Minimize Food Waste & Packaging to Lessen Climate Change

In the U.S., we waste 40% of our food or about 400 pounds annually per person, yet 1 in 7 Americans is food insecure (1). Most food waste is fruits & vegetables (42%), followed by milk & dairy (26%), grains (19%), meat (12%) and seafood (2%).  Globally, 30% of food is wasted, generating 3.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent emissions or about 8% of total GHG emissions (2).  In the U.S., we spend $218 million (1.3% GDP) growing, transporting, processing & disposing of food that is never eaten (1).  Reducing food waste by 20% by 2020 will avoid ~18 million tons of GHG emissions annually.  It will also save 1.5% of freshwater use (1.6 trillion gallons per year) (1)

Minimize Food Waste & Packaging: Other Benefits.

Reducing food waste will save money.  Americans discard 25% of the food they buy, costing each family $1,365 to $2,275 per year (1).  Investing $18 billion over a decade to reduce food waste will generate $218 billion in economic value to the U.S, $15 B to farmers, $2 B to manufacturers, $57 B to grocers & $144 B to consumers.  It will create 15,000 jobs and provide food donations to nonprofits of 1.8 billion meals per year (1).  Seattle’s City Fruit harvested over 36,000 lbs of city fruit in 2015 which was donated to food banks (4).      

Disposable water bottles are a social justice issue.  “In order to trash the planet, you have to trash people.” (see Van Jones; 3)   


Personal Actions to Reduce Food Waste & Packaging.

Lack of awareness about the environmental and economic costs of food waste is major contributor to this problem (5, 7).  Food labels do not indicate food safety and their is lack of regualtion and consumer confusion about these labels (5).  Simply using smaller plates and tips on using left-overs will reduce food waste (5)


Policy Advocacy to Redcue Food Waste & Packaging.

To reduce GHGs from food waste, some top solutions are centralized composting, consumer education campaigns and waste tracking.  More centralized composting diverts food waste from landfills and thus avoids methane emissions; this compost can be used as an alternate to traditional fertilizer and promote carbon sequestration by soil (1).  The U.S. Food Recovery Act, introduced by Rep. Chellie Pinagree in Congress, seeks to reduce food waste by reforming “sell by” dates and provides incentives for farms and businesses to donate excess food to food banks (6).

For water conservation, top solutions include waste tracking, consumer education and standardized date labelling (1)

For economic value, top solutions are consumer education campaigns, standardized date labeling, waste tracking, donation tax incentives and packaging adjustments to ensure complete consumption by consumers (1).    

Other strategies to reduce food waste include: value-added processing of excess food on farms, use of smaller plates and trayless dining in restaurants & cafeterias, community gardening and composting and home gardening & composting (1).  Seattle’s City Fruit harvested over 36,000 lbs of city fruit in 2015 which was donated to food banks (4). 

(More Resources)

Eating For a Healthy Planet 2016