It’s no secret that food waste is a major environmental problem. Almost one-third of all food produced in the world goes unused. The waste not only impacts our wallets, but also contributes to energy consumption and environmental concerns. With so much waste piling up in landfills, the rotting food develops into methane gas, which is one of the most common greenhouse gasses. This gas is directly contributing to climate change, which is harming us all.
While we often rightly think of corporations and politics that have caused accelerating climate change, food waste is still a significant factor that we can do something about. It's an issue that is intertwined with our daily lives in more ways than we might realize. While trying to make changes yourself can feel overwhelming, reducing food waste doesn't have to mean transforming your current lifestyle. Instead, small, meaningful steps can make a significant difference. Here's how.
Before diving into personal habits, let’s look into the contributing factors that we often don’t realize are impacting how and when we discard food. For those of us in the United States (U.S)., there are varying factors that can cause us to get rid of food unnecessarily.
Across the U.S., states have varying food waste programs, often built around community composting and improved waste management systems. While some states are taking steps to reduce food waste, others may make it harder due to certain policies, regulations, and other factors. The U.S. actually has a national goal to cut food waste in half by 2030. In the meantime, it’s important to do what we can to reduce our own waste until policies can catch up.
Another contributing factor that many don’t realize has a large impact is the confusion around “sell by” and “use by” dates. The ambiguity of these dates can confuse consumers, often leading us to prematurely dispose of perfectly safe and edible items.
Here’s a brief breakdown you can check next time you’re not sure if something in your fridge is actually expired:
Reducing food waste goes beyond just being mindful at the grocery store. It's a daily commitment that involves smart planning, understanding food storage, and getting a bit creative in the kitchen. It might seem daunting at first, but you don’t have to transform your lifestyle. Start small by introducing incremental changes into your shopping habits. And remember, you’re doing this for a good reason. Not only can reducing food waste save you money, but it can also help conserve energy and contribute to a healthier planet.
Let's dive into some practical steps you can take today to make a tangible difference in your household food waste.
Reducing food waste has a ripple effect on energy consumption — even on an individual basis. For example, keeping your refrigerator full is more energy-efficient, but that doesn’t mean it’s better to buy more food to keep it full. You can try different tricks to save energy, like adding containers of water and ice to fill up your fridge, which can optimize its efficiency without leading to excess food waste.
Food waste isn't just about the lost potential of the food itself; it's also about the vast amounts of energy expended throughout the entire process, from farm to fork. By understanding the energy costs involved, we can appreciate the broader benefits of reducing food waste both for our wallets and the planet.
By wasting less food, we ensure that the energy spent on producing it isn't in vain.
Growing our food requires significant energy. This includes:
Once the food is harvested, it's transported to various locations, sometimes across vast distances:
Many foods undergo processing, which often involves:
Energy consumption doesn't stop when it reaches store shelves:
Reducing food waste is an eco-friendly choice that stretches beyond just saving edible items. It's a comprehensive approach to conserving energy, minimizing carbon footprints, and promoting a sustainable lifestyle. By understanding the energy connection, we're better equipped to make informed decisions that benefit both our planet and our energy bills.
When we discuss food waste, we're touching on a global issue with significant environmental, economic, and societal impacts. Food waste contributes to about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. When food is discarded, not only are we losing the actual food, but also the energy, water, and resources that went into producing, packaging, and transporting it.
You don’t have to start with big lifestyle changes. Wasting less food is an achievable goal for everyone. By adopting even a few of these simple habits, you can start contributing to a sustainable future, while reducing your energy bills and saving valuable resources. We believe that when we are empowered with actionable insights to make greener choices, we can all start making improvements for ourselves and for the environment. Every effort counts in our journey toward a lower-waste lifestyle, saving money, energy, and our planet.