It is estimated that 30-40% of food is wasted in the United States every year. Wasted food can have a detrimental effect on the environment. Currently, food waste accounts for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, a greenhouse gas that has a 28x higher warming potential than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste is the single most common material discarded in landfills and incinerated in the U.S., accounting for around 22-24% of municipal solid waste.
How can you keep food out of landfills?
Purchasing food you know you will eat
Taking smaller portions at the dining hall (you can always get more!)
Composting any leftover food instead of throwing it away
Did you know that your food choices can have an impact on the environment? Choosing more organic fruits and vegetables, limiting your meat consumption, and eating more plant-based meals can be a great way to reduce food-based emissions.
1. Choosing organic fruits and vegetables
Organic agriculture does not use fossil fuel-based fertilizers like many conventional practices do, significantly lowering the emissions required to produce organic fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that decreasing the use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers has the potential to lower direct agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.
2. Limiting meat consumption
The key word here is limit. You do not have to become a vegetarian or vegan to make an impact. If every person in the United States cut their meat consumption by 25%, it would cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by around 1%. 1% may not seem like a lot, but it can have great benefits in reducing methane emissions associated with the production of meat, particularly beef. You can also try some meat alternatives like tempeh, tofu, lentils, beans, and even plant-based meats like Impossible or Beyond Meats to ensure you’re getting the protein your body needs!
3. Filling your plate with plant-based foods
Transiting to a plant-based diet has the potential to reduce diet-related emissions greenhouse gas emissions by 49%. Similarly to limiting meat consumption, it does not mean you have to switch to an entirely plant-based diet to reduce your food footprint. Try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts into your diet!
1 Jonathan Bloom, Dana Gunders, et. al. How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill”. 2nd edition (NRDC, August, 2017).
2 Buzby, J. (2023, January 24). Food Waste and its Links to Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
3 Brook, L. (2022, June 9). Organic Agriculture Helps Solve Climate Change. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. https://www.nrdc.org/experts/lena-brook/organic-agriculture-helps-solve-climate-change