Food Vs climate

How Food Waste is a concern to Climate Change?

Climate change is becoming a global issue that affects everything related to mankind and the environment and vice-versa. Logically climate change is connected to us, so what we do will directly or indirectly affect the environment. We all know food is the basic necessity of life on earth and we do every possible effort to grow healthy and sufficient food. But we should also know that what we are growing should not be wasted. Around 28% of valuable land is used for agricultural purposes to produce food that is ultimately lost or wasted. Deforestation takes place to clear land for agriculture and livestock farming. The burning of forests releases carbon dioxide into the environment causing climate change. 

As the world’s population continues to grow, our challenge should not be how to grow more food, but to feed more people while wasting less of what we already produce. Food waste in landfills releases methane that can trap 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide. There are a lot of actions we can take at the consumer level to curb our emissions. Delivering leftovers to those in need of food, shopping smarter, and composting to make the best out of waste are very few solutions to save your planet

Food waste and Climate change

Source: Static Data

Food waste is an international phenomenon. It is not a social or economical concern, it is an environmental concern. Food waste can be linked to globalization. To make things available in every corner of the world, supply chains get longer and food becomes more vulnerable to get wasted. In every phase of the supply chain from growing to processing, packaging, and transporting the food to consumer plate food waste takes place. As a result, it ultimately contributes to climate change. On average, one-third of the food produced (i.e approximately 1.3 billion tonnes) in the world goes into waste every year. Food production is responsible for around 26% of global GHG(greenhouse gases) emission. It includes both types of food wastage, first, food that never is eaten, and second, food that is wasted after consumption. 

Food that we waste goes into a dump that releases methane gas which is more harmful than carbon dioxide. Food production requires land, resources, energy, and water that goes into waste with the food that we throw. In general, plant-based food has much lower carbon emission than meat, cheese, and eggs. Emissions are highest for beef and lamb. So better to choose a vegetarian option to eat to reduce your carbon footprint.

How much food is wasted and where?

Food waste and food loss are two different things. The first one is when the food goes uneaten at any stage either on-farm or in a retail store during quality check. Food waste is when food does not consumed properly either threw away or gets stale before consumption. It generates at every stage of food processing starting from farm to distribution and consumption. In developed countries, food loss is a big category that should be addressed. A lot of food lost during quality checks and discarded because of size, shape, and colors. Those rejected products go into a heap of waste. Food is responsible for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some categories of places where all the food emission  is coming:

Crop Production

27% of gas emission comes from crop productions worldwide including production for humans and animals. It includes the release of nitrous oxide from the application of fertilizers and manure, methane emissions from rice production, and carbon dioxide from agricultural machinery.

Animal husbandry and fisheries

Animal husbandry is all about raising animals for meat, dairy, and eggs. All of these have the highest carbon footprint on the environment. Some of the Ruminant animals mainly cattle produce methane during their digestive process. 31% of greenhouse gases come from farm productions. 70% of agricultural land is occupied for livestock farming. As meat consumption increases globally so the climate impact.

Land Expansions for crop production

About 24% of food emission comes from land expansion for livestock farming and crop farming for human consumption and animal feed. The agricultural expansion causes savannah burning and organic soil cultivation. The burning of forests releases carbon dioxide into the environment.

Supply chain emissions

Food processing like converting produce from the farm into final products, transport, packaging, and retail all require energy and resource inputs. At every stage, there is some sort of carbon emission. Many assume that eating local is key to a low-carbon diet, however, transport emissions are often a very small percentage of food’s total emissions, it’s only 6% globally, and supply chain emissions contractually high about 18 percent. 

Household Food Waste

Source: Food Vs climate

Approximately 40 to 50 percent of food wasted on consumer-level in households including fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, etc. People waste food greater than they buy from stores. 

  • Food spoilage is one of the major reasons for food wastage. Around two-thirds of food at home got spoiled before it gets use. Food spoilage occurs due to improper storage, overburdened refrigerator, miscalculated food needs
  • Over preparing food habits to comprise the third part of food waste. People prepare larger meals and serve. As a result, food leftovers on the plate increases. More often, people forget to eat leftovers in the fridge and throw them directly in the trash.
  • Overbuying and poor planning leads to a maximum amount of food waste. People trapped in promotional offers on unusual products in retail stores and buy them without any actual requirement. This impromptu buying makes the products spoil before they get used because they are not a part meal.

What can you do to avoid food waste

First of all, we all need to understand that what we eat has a climate impact, only it is in our hands to make it bigger or smaller. Before planning to buy or dine in somewhere you should ask few questions to yourself about food:

  • Is it grown organically?
  • How long did it take to reach your plate?
  • Amount of energy used to produce it?
  • Carbon footprint it contains?

If you get satisfying answers to these questions, only then you should go for that food. Basic changes in daily life could make a big help to save the planet: 

  • Less Meat or No Meat: Always try to consume less meat because meat has the highest greenhouse gas emission than any other food. Try to opt for vegetarian recipes and dine in vegetarian restaurants.
  • Go for organic and local food: Switch to organic and locally grown food. Organic food grows without any chemical and genetically modified organisms. Buying local will help local vendors and farmers. Food doesn’t need to travel more. As result it will be fresh. Transportation and refrigeration costs will be decreased.
  • Do NOT waste food: Try to consume each bit on your plate. Plannned shopping plays an important role to prevent food waste. Buy things according to meal plans. Keep your refrigerator empty to make rooms for necessary things. Do groceries for a week at once and consume everything before the next trip to the store.
  • Grow in your Garden: You can make your food garden growing seasonal fruits and vegetables. Homegrown vegetables and fruits are chemical-free and fresh. They make your store trips lesser. 

References

  1. “What You Need to Know About Food Waste and Climate Change.” University of California, 10 May 2017, URL
  2. Ritchie, Hannah. “Food Production Is Responsible for One-Quarter of the World’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Our World in Data, URL
  3. “Food and Climate Change.” David Suzuki Foundation, 17 Aug. 2020, URL
  4. Stokpic/Pixabay, et al. “Global Food Waste and Its Environmental Impact: Green Living.”, URL
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