One of the newest challenges is realizing that all food generates greenhouse gases to reach our plates – that is a fact. But when nearly a third of it is thrown away or wasted, does that mean we could be doing more to protect the climate?
Every time food leftovers are discarded, it is necessary to remember that it was initially responsible for greenhouse gas emissions before it even got to our plate. Growing, processing, packaging and transporting the food we eat all contributes to climate change. And then when we throw it away, as it rots it releases yet more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
It has been estimated that if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. The findings by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that one third of greenhouse emissions globally come from agriculture, and 30% of food produce is wasted. In a world where some people are sleeping hungry, this is a whooping 1.8 billion tonnes of food a year. This means that If, as a planet, we stopped wasting food altogether, we’d eliminate 8% of our total emissions.
So how do we waste food and how does it end up harming our environment?
Journey of the Food Chain
About a third of our fruit and vegetables is rejected for being the wrong size or shape before it even reaches the supermarket shelf, for example. That is what our food chain is all about. In low income countries, 40% of food is wasted after it’s harvested but before it makes it to people’s homes, usually because of a lack of adequate infrastructure. This is the case in Kenya and many African countries
Ettiquette Guiding Consumption
Another reason is that of etiquette. There are taboos that rule matters food and so is the case in some parts of the world it is considered polite to leave a small amount of food on the plate to show that the host hasn’t scrimped on portions. In some Kenyan cultures for example if you finish all your food it means you are not satisfied.
A lack of refrigeration is another major cause of waste. But in many developed countries, easy access to abundant supplies of cheap produce has made consumers less thrifty about what they keep in their fridges and put on their plates.
So, What can you do?
- Start by thinking about how you shop and cook.
- Embrace composting of scraps
- Freeze the remaining food for later
- Simplify the meals you make by using what you have already
- Plan ahead before making your meal plans
By observing these few ideas, you are on your way to not just carbon emissions, but potentially time and money, too! Remember how you throw your food away also matters. Organic matter rotting in a landfill releases methane, a greenhouse gas several times more potent than carbon dioxide.
But if you compost your leftovers in a well-maintained bin that lets in oxygen, you’ll significantly reduce the amount of methane released into the atmosphere and the carbon in the composting organic matter will be held in the resulting soil.
Greenhouse gas emissions from composting are just 14% of the same food dumped into landfill, while emissions vary depending on the food, but composting bread, for example, would release just 2.2% of the emissions from putting it in landfill. It may take some effort, but cutting the amount of food you throw away can have a real impact on the planet.
To become a champion of change join the GoGreen Movement today by clicking on the link.
Did You Know?
Many families throw out around 3kg of avoidable food waste each week.This is equivalent to 23.3kg of carbon emissions. Fresh vegetables and salads make up 25% of edible household food wasted. On the other hand, meat and fish account for just 8% of wasted food but 19% of emissions. Meat and dairy products have much higher carbon emissions than fruit and vegetables
By Cathrine Khasoa
Cathrine is a seasoned writer, who is passionate about the environment and making our world a better place. She serves as the Lead for Public Relations and Communication at Optiven Group.