Reducing Food Waste

By Angelina Cook

I recently attended a workshop in Ashland called Project Drawdown. The workshop engaged approximately 70 participants in a conversation about how to reverse human acceleration of global warming.

Drawdown is a book, website and organization that is led by activist, entrepreneur and ecological economist extraordinaire, Paul Hawken. Over the past couple of years, the Drawdown team has done extensive research on the most potent ways humans can adjust behaviors and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s).

Of the top 100 ways human’s can draw GHG’s out of the atmosphere, reducing food waste ranks as the 3rd most powerful solution. I was drawn to this option because it is a behavioral solution, that has multiple benefits, and can be applied everywhere, without requiring massive investment, vision or leadership from top-down government.

The Drawdown research revealed that nearly a third of food raised and prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Meanwhile, hunger is a condition of life for nearly 800 million people worldwide. And food waste contributes 4.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year. This represents roughly 8 percent of total anthropogenic GHG’s. Ranked with countries, food would be the third-largest emitter of GHG’s globally, just behind the United States and China.

Emissions from wasteful food practices occur at many stages on the food chain. From cultivation and processing to distribution and discards, industrialized food systems generate more hydrocarbons than carbohydrates. And of the food not consumed, only a small percentage refortifies soil fertility. Lacking complex infrastructure, the emissions of non-industrial nations result more from spoilage, and forest clearing for cattle, palm, and other forms of factory food production. In contrast to emissions generated from large-scale refrigeration, fertilization and transportation of industrialized nations.

Addressing the climate conundrum is no doubt a global issue that requires coordination and cooperation at the highest levels of decision-making. But waiting for top-down government to empower mass transition to climate friendly communities and clean energy economies is not working. Why are we still waiting? Especially when opportunities like reducing food waste has potential to reduce emissions, while alleviating hunger, stimulating job opportunities, increasing self-sufficiency and overall quality of life.

Existing efforts in the communities of Weed, Mt. Shasta, Dunsmuir and McCloud can harness grassroots potential to combat climate destabilization. With broad support, and proper implementation, projects like the School CAFE, Herd Shares, Farmers Markets, community gardens, fruit gleaning, local grub clubs and neighborhood compost will enhance healthy and vibrant communities, while making our region less vulnerable to the consequences of runaway climate change.

It’s time for communities to combine efforts and consolidate resources to pursue emission reduction opportunities that are affordable, politically viable, and nurture vitality. By harvesting low-hanging fruits, (such as reducing food waste) we can regenerate Earth’s natural capacity to sustain our thriving species into the foreseeable future.