Tossing uneaten leftovers or slimy lettuce may feel like no big deal. But a new report from the sustainability-focused World Resources Institute (WRI) says food waste is responsible for 8% of annual greenhouse-gas emissions, and that 25% of agricultural water use and a land mass the size of China go toward producing food that ultimately goes uneaten. If it were a country, according to WRI, food waste and loss would release more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any nation except the U.S. and China.
Cutting back on food waste could help the environment in a few ways. Most obviously, it would save the resources and energy that go into producing unneeded food at every step of the supply chain, from farming to packaging to shipping. But as food rots in landfills, it also produces methane, one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change—so reducing the amount of food that goes uneaten, and eventually spoils, could lower overall emissions. Wasting perfectly good items also contributes to food and nutrition insecurity, since fresh, healthy items tend to be those that are wasted most, leaving behind non-perishable, processed products, notes Carmen Byker Shanks, a dietitian and associate professor of food, nutrition and sustainable food systems at Montana State University.
Excerpted from Time