Food waste is a global problem that costs billions of dollars annually and has a significant environmental impact.
It’s estimated that up to one-third of all food produced globally is wasted – or around 1.3 billion tons per year! Vikki Nicolai La Crosse discusses that not only does this represent an enormous amount of money going down the drain, but it’s also a significant strain on the environment, with food waste producing greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change.
With so much at stake, what can we do to reduce food waste, and why should we care?
What is Food Waste?
Food waste occurs when food is thrown away or not used efficiently. This could include anything from fruits and vegetables left in the fields after harvesting to food discarded by restaurants or consumers due to spoilage, expiration dates, or simply because it was unwanted.
According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), “food waste represents a major loss of resources such as land, water, energy, labor and capital invested in production systems.”
In other words, when we throw away our food without thinking about how it affects our planet, we waste valuable resources that could have been used elsewhere.
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The Environmental Impact of Food Waste
Food waste is a significant problem in terms of both resources and emissions, as well as its contribution to climate change. It is estimated that if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US.
The production process for growing food requires large amounts of energy, water, land, and other inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides; when this is thrown away or lost due to poor harvesting practices, storage or transport problems, or other causes such as overproduction, these resources are wasted too.
Food waste contributes significantly to global warming through methane emissions from landfills, where much of it ends up. Methane traps heat 28 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over hundred years; because most organic matter like food breaks down anaerobically in these conditions, it will release methane into the atmosphere as part of its decomposition process unless prevented from doing so.
Furthermore, when organic matter is left exposed in open-air landfill sites, it can also emit nitrous oxide, which has 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
At the same time, CO2 emissions are relatively stable over time, and N2O concentrations are increasing steadily due to human activities such as agricultural practices and landfills where they can escape into the atmosphere directly.
What Can We Do To Reduce Food Waste?
There are several things individuals can do right now that have been proven effective in reducing food waste: buy only what you need, freeze leftovers that can’t be eaten soon enough, so they don’t spoil before you get to them again later on; compost kitchen scraps for use in your garden or donate them to local community gardens; plan meals carefully, so you don’t end up buying more than necessary; buy imperfect produce from farmers markets or stores offering them at discount prices instead throwing them out; store fruits and vegetables properly so they last longer; aim for zero waste shopping trips by taking reusable bags with you when grocery shopping, avoiding pre-packaged items wherever possible (bulk bins are great for this); use apps like Too Good To Go or OLIO which connect people who have surplus food with those who need it before it gets thrown away (this helps prevent edible goods going into landfill).
What Happens If We Don’t Reduce Food Waste?
It is estimated that if food waste were reduced by just 25%, we could save 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2 annually and feed an additional 1 billion people worldwide. If we fail to address this issue now, it will only get worse as our population grows and the demand for food increases.
In addition to the environmental impacts, wasted food costs us all money; according to one estimate, households in the UK alone waste £13 billion worth of groceries each year.
On top of this, it’s also an ethical issue as millions of people struggle with hunger and poverty, yet we continue to let delicious food go to waste.
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Vikki Nicolai La Crosse Discusses that food waste has become a severe environmental issue worldwide due to its ability to produce harmful greenhouse gases and contribute significantly towards climate change.
Fortunately, there are ways individuals can help reduce their contribution towards this problem by making intelligent shopping decisions, such as avoiding buying processed foods with short shelf lives and being aware of portion sizes when cooking meals at home so that not too much gets thrown away later on in the week.
Reducing our contribution may not seem like much, but we can make a difference in reducing global food wastage! By making small changes now, we can ensure future generations have access to healthy, sustainable crops without fear of shortages caused by irresponsible consumption patterns today!