The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change focused on the role of land-use decisions and makes clear that the food system is a significant driver of climate change—but that it can also be a vital part of the solution.
And it’s all about food waste: Forty percent of food in the U.S. and one-third of food globally is never eaten. The report goes on to say that when food goes to waste, so does the water, pesticides, fertilizers, energy, packaging and labor it takes to get to our plates.
If the food wasted around the globe were a country, according to the report, it would have the third-highest climate footprint on the planet behind only China and the U.S. Food waste is the single-largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills, where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Nearly 20% of U.S. cropland is used to grow food we don’t eat.
But consumers are the largest single source of wasted food in the U.S., so grocers need to stress to shoppers that buying only what we actually need, storing food to maximize its shelf life and eating leftovers is a big part of solution. The Natural Resources Defense Council's "Save The Food" campaign with the Ad Council has a host of easy ideas for consumers at SaveTheFood.com, and I recommend every grocery retailer supports their effort and adds a link to their website.
Cities such as Denver, Baltimore and Nashville are also taking leadership to set food waste reduction targets, prevent wasted food, boost donation of surplus food to those in need, and compost food scraps. It is an effort every city and town, and every supermarket, needs to promote.