Food Waste and Climate Change

food waste and climate changeOur food choices have environmental consequences, and our food waste is no different. Farming uses about 70% of our water, and pollutes rivers with fertilizer and waste that in turn create vast coastal dead zones. The food on your plate literally touches everything.

Let’s talk about our trash: In the U.S., 40% of our food is thrown away every year. It’s an environmental tragedy. An estimated $165 billion per year — that’s $1,500 per family of four.

Kitchen food waste is not harmless. Food Waste = Methane Gas = Climate Change — it generates significantly more of the greenhouse gas methane when it’s buried in landfills than when it’s composted. The environmental benefits of composting make it a far better choice. Putting your food waste in the compost bin can really help reduce methane emissions from landfills, and it’s an easy thing to do that can have a big impact.

I learned about the food waste problem this past holiday season when a friend visiting questioned my practice of tossing food waste into my kitchen trash. I did my research and learned that we should all definitely pay attention to where we put our food waste. In the U.S. 95% of food scraps are thrown in the trash and eventually end up in landfills. The best thing is to not have food scraps or waste in the first place. But what you do with them makes a big difference for our environment and our climate.

food waste and climate change

Pollution from Methane Gas: When organic material, such as food and garden waste, rots under anaerobic conditions it produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change, so it is important to prevent it from being released into the atmosphere. Reducing food waste is one important way we can each do that.

Most of us are aware that our food choices have environmental consequences. Who hasn’t heard about the methane back draft from cows? Well, we are contributing methane through landfill food waste in much the same was as the cattle industry.

Here are some ways that you can change the way you think about and treat the food at your house and table:


Do you compost your food scraps?
Some cities have curbside compost pickup. If yours doesn’t, you can do some kitchen composting and feed your garden (big or small) with your kitchen waste.

Shop Smart: Make a shopping list and plan meals. So many times we are tempted by sales but never eat the temptations. Ask yourself, “Will I really eat that?”

Do you eat leftovers? Soups, stews and smoothies are great ways to use up aging foods. Only toss out the non-edible parts of produce. Freezing leftovers in small portions — and in glass or ceramic dishes — will provide welcome snacks and healthy meals when time to prepare a meal from scratch is in short supply.

food waste and climate change

Would you buy or eat bananas with brown spots? They don’t have potassium until the spots appear. You can put spotted bananas in the refrigerator and they stop aging — although the peelings will continue to get dark. The peelings will make your roses happy, they love the potassium too!

What do you do when you can’t finish a meal? At home and when eating out? Portions are so large in most restaurants that leftovers are almost a certainty. Bringing our own non plastic containers are the best way to ensure that our food doesn’t touch plastic and the estrogen mimicking toxins in plastic. Glass or ceramic containers make it easy to stick the leftovers in the freezer when you get home. Label and date leftovers — and remember to eat them!

What do you do if you find a can of soup in the pantry that is 2 months passed its best before date? Use by and best before dates are not expiry dates, they indicate peak freshness. These dates are often not definitive — except for tomato and green bean products. These two vegetables can give you food poisoning — along with meat products.

What temperature is your fridge?  Set your fridge at 33-41 F/1-5 C to keep your foods fresh. First in First Out: Organize your foods newest in back, oldest in front. Make a section for foods that need to be eaten ASAP, or freeze, dry or dehydrate it.

Does your family serve up their own plates, or does the cook or host serve portions? Best to leave portion choice to the person eating the food, this leads to less waste. Put less on your plate, eat family style, or ask for smaller portions.

Cosmetic standards lead to copious food waste. Buy the funny looking produce. It tastes just as good and you will reduce the waste. Does the grocery store you shop at have a food recovery program where they donate excess food? Many do, and if yours doesn’t, suggest they begin one.

Check out the Movie “Just Eat It: A Story of Food Waste”

Share leftovers with a friend, a pet, or compost it –Food does not belong in the landfill. The Good News: We have the opportunity to effect change and save the planet three times a day!