Food Waste & Climate Change

By Don Bosco Green Alliance

May 31, 2020

With the shifting and ever increasing consumption patterns, food waste is slowly but surely becoming a major contributor to climate change and global warming. Roughly ⅓ of all food produced is wasted every year, which amounts to roughly 1.3 billion tons of food. This is food that either never leaves the farm, gets lost or spoiled during distribution, or is thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens. (Climate change & Land Report, IPCC, 2018)

Currently, we employ unsustainable models for food production, and then end up wasting a third of the food we produce, causing environmental damage at both ends of the production cycle. There is a large disparity in the availability and accessibility of these food products as well; 26% of the world population is obese while 10.5% of the human population suffers from malnutrition.

Food waste is not merely a humanitarian issue, but also an environmental issue. Dairy farming and agricultural practices contribute to nearly 30% of the Greenhouse gas emissions. If one were to calculate all the food waste emissions in the world, they would be the third-largest emitter in the world.

Of course, not all of this food is not created by individuals. Nearly ⅓ of produce is rejected even before it reaches the shelves due to cosmetic factors such as shape and colour. These aesthetic factors do not impact the taste or quality of the food, and we need to establish awareness regarding the same to ensure that food that may not be aesthetically is not immediately discarded.

There is also a large disparity between developed and developing nations with regard to food waste. In middle- and high-income countries, consumers take a bigger slice of the blame: estimates suggest that households are responsible for 53% of all food waste in Europe, and 47% of food waste in Canada.

Since food waste is often linked to cultural practices, it is not easy to make a blanket statement regarding household food waste. However, individuals can assess their own consumption and waste practices and make changes to reduce food waste.

By simply rethinking how you shop and cook, in most high-income countries at least, it should be possible to reduce the amount we waste and so lessen our contribution to climate change.

Preventing food waste is the most effective way to shrink its impact on the planet. If we avoid producing food that we don’t eat, we can save the land, water, and energy that would have been used to make it.