The news out of Paris last week at the conclusion of COP21 signaled a global commitment to combat the warming of the planet by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. News headlines announced the end of fossil fuels and a shift to a renewable economy. While this is truly an historic moment, I asked myself “how can the average citizen contribute to these lofty goals?” The answer was right in front of me: reduce waste.
Waste, in its myriad forms, contributes to the consumption and loss of resources— resources that would otherwise benefit society. Did you know that we all can commit to simple changes that will help us impact the global climate change problem? Food waste, in particular, is one type of waste that we can all reduce simply by looking at our own households.
Food waste is the single largest waste stream going to our landfills today. According to the United Nations, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year. And if food waste was a country, its GHG emissions would be the third largest, ranking just behind the U.S. and China. Therefore, the potential to reduce the environmental impact of a major source of GHG emissions is enormous and available to you in your daily life with some simple changes and awareness.
As you might imagine, the impact of food waste doesn’t stop with the environmental impact. The economic impact is significant—food waste costs the average U.S. household nearly $2,000 per year. Currently, statistics show us that most grocery shoppers waste approximately 1/3 of all food purchased for their home. To put that in better perspective, imagine bringing home three grocery bags full of food. Now, immediately throw away one full bag of food. The amount we personally waste in our homes is striking, and easily addressed. Furthermore, if we were able to recover just 25% of the food we waste in the U.S., we would save enough calories to feed 43 million people 3 meals a day for an entire year. We can make these reductions with simple changes like focusing on portion sizes when buying groceries, and paying attention to best by, sell by, and use by dates on food packaging.
So why aren’t we doing something about this? Many of us are making strides with some key actions.
•Education: By increasing awareness and promoting best practices, an increasing number of consumers are taking action.
•Innovation: By investing in technology, we prevent food spoilage and reduce discards of edible food from the farm to the plate, for example, by keeping fresh foods fresher for longer.
•Partnerships: By coming together to collaborate, businesses, governments and civil society organizations are working to implement solutions and setting goals to reduce food waste.
Yes, the Paris agreement surrounding the world’s GHG emissions is big news. But I am also encouraged by the fact that we can all make an impact and reduce GHG emissions, just by focusing on reducing waste in our own households. So, please, join me in this important journey. Let’s get started!
To learn more about Sealed Air and the work the company is doing to reduce food waste, please visit www.sealedair.com .