Food Waste & Climate Change

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We all eat food. We all intake some type of nourishment on a daily basis. Yet, not everything is eaten. Barely eaten foodstuffs end up in trash bins, dumpsters, and landfills as waste. The country we’re in, the United States, is no stranger to this issue; it’s the 2nd most wasteful country in the world, with almost 300 kilograms of food per capita going to landfills. Not only is the food itself lost, but the packaging that it’s associated with and the energy and time put into production goes to waste.

Energy is used to produce food. When looking at all the components of the food that we eat, we must account for everything: the packaging and what lies beneath. The production of food requires energy: the time and labor that goes into marketing and advertising for food products. It requires water: the resource that crops need to survive. Along with others, such as land and fertilizer, these resources are trashed and discarded, along with the original food product. All these components create one disastrous formula, increasing greenhouse gas emissions as more energy is used to produce additional food to meet demand.

Emissions matter. Greenhouse gases are released as food waste decomposes in landfills and dumpsters. Methane is among the most significant. Its global warming potential is about 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. In short, its ability to negatively impact the environment is much greater than that of carbon dioxide emissions. When food waste decomposes in a landfill, it produces methane as a byproduct, which is then released into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Transporting food from its manufacturing location to stores and warehouses releases gasses into the atmosphere as well. Currently, the most common source of energy that semi-trucks and 18-wheelers utilize is diesel. However, it’s not efficient. Diesel engines release tons of CO2 and other pollutants into the atmosphere as they burn fuel, adding more damage to our already-weakened atmosphere and increasing temperatures within our already-heated planet. Thus, climate change continues.

There’s no easy way to fix our climate problems. While the circumstances around food waste and climate change can be complicated and diverse, there’s significant proof that the two are related. We only have one earth to call home, so it’s important that we show it the respect and care it deserves. By coming together and working towards more eco-friendly mindsets and behaviors, we can reduce our ecological footprint, positively impacting the present and the future.

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