Food Waste: The Problem May be Bigger Than You Think
Think big. Think Sear’s Tower big and then multiply by 44.
That is approximately the volume of food that is lost from the U.S. food supply annually at retail food stores, restaurants, and homes combined.
Now think of all the labor, land, water, fertilizer, and other inputs that went into growing that food. It would take far more than a mega-city of skyscrapers to contain it all. Production of wasted food pulls all these resources away from uses that may be more beneficial to society – and it generates impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet. The environmental footprint of food waste starts at agricultural production and extends through to food processing, transportation, retail, preparation and/or disposal, depending on where along the way the food is discarded.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that electricity production and transportation accounted for about 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2011. Food-related energy use accounts for a sizeable share of these energy-related emissions: USDA estimates that food-related energy use was 14 percent of the national energy budget in 2002.
Now think of how easy it would be to reduce food waste in your daily life. If we work together, we can build a different legacy than the skyscraper-sized piles of food waste we are currently building.
To get started, I hope you will join us on June 4th when USDA and EPA launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Until then, you can learn more at www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/