Reducing food waste could potentially prevent climate change and help end global poverty. In the first study of its kind, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated that the world’s population wastes 1.3 billion tons of food per year. That food waste also results in 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
Food waste also costs the world $750 billion annually. The United States alone wastes $161 billion a year. Another study calculated that $265 billion per year would end world poverty and hunger by 2030.
The FAO’s study, “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources,” focuses specifically on the environmental impacts of wasting food. A 54 percent majority of this waste occurs during the production phase, and developing nations struggle most during this part.
On the other hand, 46 percent of food waste occurs during the distribution and consumption of those products. Developed countries waste more during the consumption phase; they are responsible for 31 to 39 percent of total food waste.
Reducing food waste requires positive change in all phases of the food production and consumption chain. The FAO also suggested teaching more environmentally friendly farming practices and better analysis of the balance between supply and demand. As a result, the entire food production process would be more efficient and profitable during both phases.
Not only does reducing food waste affect the economy and environment, but it also has a positive social impact. If consumers in developed countries reduced their food waste, then farmers in developing nations would have more land and other resources. These farmers could use the extra water and space to grow the foodstuffs their countries (and other developing nations) need.
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FAO provide toolkits for reducing food waste. The EPA’s toolkit also provides a guide full of information specifically about the U.S. It also contains an implementation plan for starting a local advocacy movement. Here are just a few ways individuals can help reduce food waste:
- Plan before shopping. Checking the fridge and pantry before shopping can prevent overbuying.
- Buy the ugly fruits and vegetables. They are still perfectly good to eat.
- Keep track of “Sell By” and “Use Before” dates. Sometimes, food stays good much longer than a sell by date. In addition, make sure to eat foods that are nearing those use before dates.
- Be creative. If they are a little wilted or wrinkled, those foods are still great for smoothies, soups, pies, etc.
- Eat smart and share. Controlling portion sizes when cooking or ordering food while out will reduce food waste. If there are extras or leftovers, sharing with family and friends can also help.
- Freeze food. This will keep it fresh until a much later date.
- Compost. Buying a kitchen composter or recycling waste in a garden will keep food out of landfills.
- Donate. Donating untouched food to homeless shelters or others in need will be doubly beneficial. Instead of becoming waste, it will go to the people who desperately need it.
Food waste clearly has a widespread impact in all avenues of human life. Better communication and balance between farmers and distributors would save both money and the environment. More thoughtful purchasing and consumption at the individual level would also contribute. If the world can cooperate and reduce food waste, then there is greater hope for the end of environmental destruction and global poverty.
– Taylor Hazan