The Embedded Impacts of Food Waste

Many conscientious shoppers are familiar with the headline statistics surrounding food waste: 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is never consumed, a staggering total equivalent to 400 pounds of food wasted per person every year. That wasted food takes up more than one-fifth of landfill space in the United States and costs our economy over $218 billion.

Those stats are horrifying enough on their own, but did you know that food waste is also one of the leading contributors to climate change?

Between the ultimately wasted resources used to produce food, transportation, cooling and storage, and the methane emissions from decomposing food in landfills, the emissions related to food waste worldwide are equivalent to 3.3 billion tons of carbon — putting food waste as the third largest emitter in the world behind only China and the United States.

Food waste is a product of inefficiencies throughout the food system, and there are ways that everyone from producers to consumers can help mitigate the problem. Retailers, in particular, are in a unique position to significantly address the problem by pursuing measures like consumer education on the impacts of food waste and selling cosmetically defective food at a discount.

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about the industry’s seeming lack of interest in working to solve this global problem. 74 percent of shoppers believe food waste is an important issue to address and increasing consumer pressure on companies like Target* and Costco* has resulted in increased transparency regarding food waste tracking and management.

Green Century is working to elevate the issue of food waste within the food industry, and our ongoing engagement with Amazon.com* was recently featured in a front page article in the business section of The Wall Street Journal. Mitigating food waste at the retail level has proven to come with substantial financial and reputational benefits for corporations while simultaneously helping to reduce emissions.

Though a bit cliché, food waste truly does represent one of the lowest hanging fruits when seeking to address climate change.


Photo credit: Amazon Fresh by Atomic Taco CC BY 2.0 via flickr

*As of December 31, 2017, Target Corporation and Costco Wholesale Corporation comprised 0.72%, 0.00% and 0.00% and 1.22%, 0.00%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, Green Century Equity Fund, and Green Century MSCI International Index Fund, respectively. Other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios of the Green Century Funds as of December 31, 2017. References to specific securities, which will change due to the ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.

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