How to Reduce Food Waste and Your Carbon Footprint

A major part of reducing our carbon footprint is not just about cutting our consumption but also about not wasting what we buy. 

When you calculated your carbon footprint, you probably noticed that your food carbon footprint was one of the biggest contributors to your greenhouse gas emissions. 

On average, about 10-30% of an individual’s carbon footprint comes from what they eat or consume. Of those numbers, a significant portion arises from food waste, which accounts for 6% of total global GHG emissions

Reducing food waste is a great step toward reducing your carbon footprint and also helping the environment. Learn about the importance of food waste and step-by-step instructions to help you reduce food waste by adopting seven simple habits. 

The Impact of Food Waste on the Environment

Unlike many other carbon emissions, we’re all guilty of food waste. But thankfully, we all have the power, individually and collectively, to limit our carbon emissions from food waste without having to make dramatic changes in our lives, like going vegetarian or purchasing a new car. 

Not only does food require embodied carbon to produce, but food waste is the number one source of raw landfill materials, which contribute to greenhouse gasses through incineration and rotting. 

To put it in a better perspective, the EPA estimates that the US’s greenhouse gas emissions from food waste account for the same amount of emissions as 42 coal-powered plants and a year’s worth of water and energy that could be used to supply 50 million homes in the US. 

In addition, food waste impacts the environment in multiple ways, including:

How Much Food Is Wasted in the US?

The EPA estimates that ⅓ of the food produced in the US is wasted and comprises nearly 25% of the materials found in landfills. 

According to Feeding America, 119 billion pounds of food are wasted annually, totaling up to 130 billion meals and $408 billion annually. 

This means that there is significant room for producers and consumers to save a pretty penny by reducing our food waste.

What Causes Food Waste?

Unfortunately, most food waste occurs from producers, as most food is either spoiled or ruined before it ever makes it to the shelf. However, we tend to differentiate this between food loss (at the production stage) and food waste (at the consumption stage).

According to the UN’s Environment Programme’s 2021 Food Waste Index Report, 43% of food waste comes from households and 39% from retailers and restaurants. 

As consumers, our impact in reducing food waste does not only help eliminate food waste from the consumer’s side but also by reducing food loss on the production side. 

Furthermore, this impact not only reduces our carbon footprint collectively but helps us save on groceries individually and can even help us keep up with inflation. 

For this reason, we’ve outlined a few ways that Clean Lifers can help reduce their food waste and shop more responsibly for their food.

7 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

1. Plan Meals Ahead

Planning your meals and grocery list enables you to limit your purchases and find ways to reuse leftover ingredients from every meal. For example, you can take leftover vegetables from one meal and convert them to a casserole or soup the next. 

Planning meals also helps you stick to diet plans and eat healthy. 

2. Take Inventory of Your Pantry

Before you go shopping, be sure to check if you already have the ingredients you require in your pantry. Doubling up on disposable foods like vegetables and fruits can lead to a lot of waste with very little option to preserve the leftovers. 

3. Freeze Leftovers

Freeze any foods that can eaten at a later time in the freezer. For example, breads, meats, sauces, and lots of foods can be easily frozen, as well as finished meals that can be reheated in the microwave or oven later. 

4. Create Leftover Recipes

Leftover foods can easily be converted into various dishes, including:

Find ways to get creative and maximize your use of ingredients for every meal you plan.

5. Buy Leftover Ugly Foods

Companies like Misfit Market have sought to address food waste issues by offering customers discount produce, otherwise known as “ugly foods.” 

Ugly foods are simply foods with aesthetic flaws or a very short expiration date that can’t be sold at supermarkets. 

Ugly foods offer an affordable way to purchase fresh foods that are still ripe and delicious while cutting down on food waste.

Best of all, these discounted foods can save you lots of money at the grocery store, which is particularly useful as food prices increase. 

6. Compost

Composting food is a great way to reduce food waste and give your garden a fresh coat of mulch rich in nutrients. 

Composting can be done with a small DIY kit or a fairly cheap compost bin. All you’ll need is compost starter, some fresh leaves or grass, and food waste that you can collect as you cook and put in your bin. 

Not all food is compostable, so do your research. However, composting goes hand in hand really well with our next tip. 

7. Grow Your Own Food

Growing your own food is one of the best ways to leverage added space in your home or backyard while cutting down on industrial food production. Not only is gardening satisfying and healthier, but it also helps cut down on food waste and loss. 

Starting a garden can help you save money over time, live more self-sufficiently, and reduce your carbon footprint. 

Eliminating food waste requires very little investment and can result in massive savings. 

Follow these steps to slowly reduce your food waste and even become more self-sufficient as you shop for groceries and grow your own food. 

As with so many other actions found in The Clean Energy Life, switching to clean energy is as much about sustainability as it is about independence and self-sufficiency. 

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