Friday, April 11, 2014

eco-lent: week 6, why food waste matters

Although there are possibly any number of reasons food waste matters, I'll give you just two here: 1) an ecological reason, methane, and 2) a justice reason, hungry people.

  • Methane.
When food waste decomposes, it releases methane, which is one of the major greenhouse gases. Now, food waste may not be the hugest producer of methane (#1 natural gas fracking leaks, #2 livestock, #3 landfills, according to the EPA). But if we reduced food waste, at least it would be a step in the right direction.

Becoming vegetarian and feeding cows stuff that's good for them would also be steps in the right direction (Scholarly study: ELLIS, J. L., A. BANNINK, J. FRANCE, E. KEBREAB, and J. DIJKSTRA. 2010. "Evaluation of enteric methane prediction equations for dairy cows used in whole farm models J. L. ELLIS et al. METHANE PREDICTION IN VIVO FARM MODELS."Global Change Biology 16, no. 12: 3246-3256. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 11, 2014). And: Grainger, C., R. Williams, T. Clarke, A.-D. G. Wright, and R. J. Eckard. 2010. "Supplementation with whole cottonseed causes long-term reduction of methane emissions from lactating dairy cows offered a forage and cereal grain diet."Journal Of Dairy Science 93, no. 6: 2612-2619. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 11, 2014).).

Using food scraps to power electrical plants would also be a great solution! It looks like they're actually doing this in London. (Scholarly study: Molino, A., F. Nanna, Y. Ding, B. Bikson, and G. Braccio. 2013. "Biomethane production by anaerobic digestion of organic waste." Fuel 103, 1003-1009. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 11, 2014). Another one: Kastner, Verena, Walter Somitsch, and Wolfgang Schnitzhofer. 2012. "The anaerobic fermentation of food waste: a comparison of two bioreactor systems." Journal Of Cleaner Production 34, 82-90. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost(accessed April 11, 2014).)
  • People.
Besides the fact that of course climate change effects people, not having enough to eat also has a major effect on people. Researchers at the University of Arizona, Tucson, estimate in a 2005 study that 40-50% of food harvested in the United States is never eaten. That is jaw-dropping, if you ask me. (Sources: Jones, Timothy W. 2005. “THE CORNER ON FOOD LOSS.” Biocycle 46, no. 7: 25. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. And: Jones, Timothy W. 2005. “FOOD LOSS ON THE FARM.” Biocycle 46, no. 9: 44-46. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 14, 2014).)

About 12% remains in the fields after saleable food is harvested, and the other 30-40% is lost at each level of the supply chain. Then there's the dozen or so pounds each week that we waste after we buy it and forget about it in our fridge, like we talked about yesterday.

Add to that, in the United States alone, 14.5% of the population struggles with hunger each year, according to the 2012 USDA Household Food Security report

  • Let's recap.
In the USA, 40-50% of food is wasted on its way to our homes.
Another 12 pounds per week goes bad in our fridges or is unused (shells, cores, peels, etc.).
14.5% of Americans aren't getting enough to eat.
Food waste rots and gives off methane.
Methane is a major greenhouse gas, holding in warm air and causing polar ice caps and glaciers to melt, raising the sea level, and contributing to severe weather patterns.
We could capture the methane and use it for energy production, but we generally don't.
Instead, we use fossil fuels to produce energy, which give off CO2, another greenhouse gas.

  • So, does food waste matter?

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