Today, April 22, is Earth Day. This annual event has been running since 1970 and promotes environmental protection and raises awareness of climate change. To mark this day, we wanted to take the chance to talk about the link between food waste and climate change.
Climate change, a change in climate patterns largely attributed to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, is the biggest environmental challenge of our time.
There are lots of scientific discussions out there about the drivers and what can be done to slow it, but we’re particularly interested in the part that food waste plays in it. It’s something that doesn’t get much airtime but is really important to understand.
When we throw away food it gets buried in landfills where it starts to decompose without the presence of oxygen. This decomposition releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps and absorbs heat, amplifying the natural greenhouse effect, which slowly over time is raising the earth’s temperature.
To give you an idea of the size of the problem, according to World Resources Institute, food loss, and waste generates more than four times as much annual greenhouse gas emissions as aviation (pre covid of course). We so often refer to flying less as a way to address global warming, but what about wasting less food!
Wasting food also wastes all the resources used to grow, harvest, transport, process and package it. We can’t forget about the carbon emissions that are produced whenever food is grown, transported, and sold.
Taking into account the emissions generated as the food decomposes and the emissions from the production of the wasted food, the FAO estimates that food waste accounts for about 8% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions.
So while we often talk about the big system changes we as a society can make to address climate change, the smaller things at the day-to-day and household level can make a real difference.
Plan your meals, use up that bag of spinach and buy your lunch from Foodprint.