The Impact of Food Waste on the Environment

By Lisa Giovannielli (450 words)
Posted in Environmental Concerns on September 17, 2010

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According to the USDA, the United States throws out just slightly over one quarter, or 25.9 million tons of food waste annually. There are other studies that project this number is vastly higher, and that supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores alone throw away 27 million tons of food a year, (which represents about $30 billion of wasted food). These numbers seem astonishing and yet other countries are doing far worse than the United States.

It is a known fact that food is biodegradable, so why is this an issue? Each bag of garbage that we throw out goes into landfills throughout the United States, which are slowly running out of room. More importantly, when food waste breaks down, it turns into methane gas. Methane gas traps up to 23 times as much heat in the atmosphere than CO2, and landfills are the places where you find most of it, they account for about 34 percent methane gas emissions in the United States.

This is just one way food waste effects the environment. Another way the environment is effected is from food production. Production of food is very costly to the environment, land needs to be cleared to plant crops, fertilizers and pesticides are often used which damage the earth after years of applying this to the crops.

Saving only 5% of our left over's can feed 4 million people per day. Most food waste starts with the grower, supplier and distribution levels, due to imperfect foods do not meet the demand of the market.

Reducing food waste can start at the individual level, and can help reduce waste by almost 25% and would help in saving money. Here are some tips in helping reduce waste at home, in the workplace and when eating out:

  • Buy only what is going to be eaten. Buying in bulk often seems like a good idea, but more often than not, food that is no longer appetizing or becomes rotten gets thrown out, also wasting money.
  • Keeping food storage organized will assist in reducing food waste. Keep left over's on one side of the fridge so it's easily visible. 
  • Freeze foods that will not be eaten right away, and do an inventory of the fridge several times a week to make sure things are not pushed to the back and forgotten about.
  • Share your food with your friends, family and neighbors. It saves food, result s in building community and generosity is always appreciated.
  • Do not throw out old fruits and veggies. Make a soup out of them! Then they can be frozen and consumed later.

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