Ask anyone about carbon dioxide emissions and, depending on their field of interest, they may respond with changes facing the automotive industry, or perhaps power generation, food waste might be somewhat of a rarer conversation piece.
The next time you go to a restaurant and leave food on the plate or you see that your leftovers have turned into a science project, perhaps you should think about the carbon dioxide emissions that you just added to. True, we all make mistakes, ordering too much or forgetting last week’s turkey sub rolled up on the bottom shelf. Don’t forget food spoilage that occurs due to poor farming practices, insufficient storage facilities, or natural disasters. Those mistakes and problems add up when you’re talking about seven billion people.
According to a report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization [UNFAO], some 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year, at a cost of $750 billion. This means that, technically speaking, we have enough food in the world to feed about ten billion people, and yet 868 million people still do not have access to sufficient food every day. Put another way, our food production efficiency is just over 61%. OK, the human cost is staggering, as is the monetary cost, not to mention our joke-worthy ability to properly distribute the food, but what about carbon dioxide emissions?
Let’s take a look at when carbon dioxide emissions come into play in the food cycle – plowing, planting, watering, harvesting, transportation, storage, preparation – and imagine that the next cheeseburger you don’t feel like finishing get’s thrown in the trash. All the preparation so you could eat half a cheeseburger? According to UNFAO’s report, these carbon dioxide emissions alone account for approximately 3.3 billion tons annually, and that doesn’t include the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions that come from the landfill when that wasted food starts to decompose!
I took the liberty of running a few calculations and found that 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide is roughly the same amount of emissions that three billion cars produce every year, except for one important factor – “There are only one billion cars on the planet.”
Image © WikiMedia