U.S. Wastes 2 Percent of Its Energy on Uneaten Food

food gone to waste photo
Photo: oceandesetoiles

For the folks who won't buy an electric car, put solar panels on their roof, or turn off the lights when they leave the room, there's a painless solution that can help even them reduce their carbon footprint -- stop wasting all that food! According to the latest research, the United States could save the equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil every year by not producing those tons of food which get tossed out every day. In a recent study, researchers discovered that food production in the U.S. requires some 1.4 billion barrels of oil each year, from growing, packaging, preserving, and transporting the stuff that ends up on your plate. And Americans really like food; It's estimated that between 8 and 16 percent of total US energy consumption gets poured into producing the food we consume -- or planned on consuming, that is.

For all this energy spent of food, Americans are throwing a shockingly high amount of it away. According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans toss out around 27 percent of the food they buy -- and that's after the dog gets its share.

Michael Webber and Amanda Cuellar, the researchers who co-wrote the study, believe that the energy savings from not wasting food are an untapped idea whose time has come -- and that it might be even greater than what they suspect.

Consequently, the energy embedded in wasted food represents a substantial target for decreasing energy consumption in the U.S.. The wasted energy calculated here is a conservative estimate both because the food waste data are incomplete and outdated and the energy consumption data for food service and sales are incomplete.

When all the figures are added up, the study estimates that around 2 percent of the country's annual energy usage ends up, quite literally, tossed in the rubbish bin. Managing to reduce this figure would be an easy way the U.S. could cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of global warming.

Considering the skyrocketing obesity rates, reducing the amount of food dished out could be beneficial to the nation's health as well. Smaller portions and eating locally grown food are both ways Americans could cut down on their carbon footprints -- while slimming down their waistlines, too.

More on Food Waste
The Impact of Food Waste on Climate Change
50 Ways to Never Waste Food Again
Food Waste Revealed: From Farm to Store to Kitchen

Related Content on Treehugger.com