Understanding the Environmental Toll of Food Waste

October 25, 2018

Our mission is simple. It simply doesn’t make sense to see food go to waste while there are families and individuals in our community who don’t have enough to eat. Reducing hunger is at the core of what we do, and it’s easy to understand. If it was a simple math equation, it would read: not enough food + excess food = reduced hunger . But what’s harder to wrap our heads around is the incredible environmental impact that wasted food has on the planet.

Thanks to a summer intern, who combed through data to create formulas to calculate the impacts of different types of food, and to DOMO, who donated software to us that calculates everything from the amount of water saved, to amounts of greenhouse gases that weren’t emitted, we’re able to quantify our impact!

Not unlike burning fossil fuels (which releases CO2), food rotting in landfills creates greenhouse gas emissions (in the form of methane). In fact, if food waste was a country, it would rank third in the world for greenhouse gas emissions (just behind the United States and China). Still­­, it’s difficult to calculate the exact impact that food waste has on the environment. As a recent article from Popular Science notes, “to calculate that amount for a tomato, you’d have to work out which agricultural processes go into farming that fruit. How much fuel does the tractor use? How much energy goes into the fertilizer? And when it comes to meat, how much does a cow burp? How much energy do you need to make the feed for chickens?”

Fortunately, researchers are taking interest in the life cycle impacts of food products–and we’re applying that information to our numbers at We Don’t Waste.

Here’s an example below of what we’ve been able to calculate:

And those 6,750,984 Pounds of CO2 equivalent that we’ve diverted so far in 2018, are equivalent to the emissions that would be saved from driving 7.5 MILLION miles less.

We’re proud of our impact on people and the planet and are so thankful for everyone who helps us make the impact a reality.