GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM THE FOOD SECTOR AND HOW TO REDUCE THEM

Introduction

Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Since food is an essential need for all people on the planet this is justified, but at the same time makes it more important to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted in the process. In this article I will present some ideas for a reduction that start on a personal level.

Food Waste

It might be  shocking, but food waste alone is responsible for six percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. This food waste can be divided in two categories.

The first one is food wasted in supply chains, so all the food that gets produced but never arrives at a person that wants to eat it. One example are supermarkets that waste products that often still could be eaten, but need to be thrown away for legal reasons.

The second one is Consumer waste, so all the food that gets bought with the intention to eat it, but in the end gets thrown away. For example food we buy but then forget to use before it goes bad.

So what can we do to change this? 

The most direct impact we can do is to reduce food waste on the personal level. Some means to accomplish this are as easy as planning your shopping and meals in advance or establishing an order in your fridge, so that you only buy the things you need and don’t forget products until they go bad. To prevent fresh products from perishing fastly it might be also useful to inform yourself on what is the best way to conserve them.

To influence the food waste in supply chains is a bit more difficult, since you can only have an indirect impact like voting and by this influencing the legal situation in your country. The legal situations in Germany and France regarding the waste of supermarkets for example are very different. While in France it is forbidden for supermarkets to throw away food that is still edible, in Germany the contrary is illegal, i.e. saving food from the waste of supermarkets is considered a crime.  

Diet

As you can see from the initial diagram, more than half of the food emissions (31% livestock + 6% crops for feeding + 16% for land use = 53%) is caused by the livestock sector, which contains the production of all products obtained from animals. If you look at the facts though animal agriculture is much more inefficient than plant-based agriculture.  In fact 83% of the global farm land is used for it, but at the same time it provides only 37% of protein nutrition and only 18 percent of the calories produced worldwide. 

As a consequence a reduction of our consumption of animal products would have a big impact on our CO2-footprint and will be necessary to fight climate change. Further positive impacts of a more plant-based diet would be the combat against world hunger, health improvements as well as reduced suffering of animals. 

Of course you do not have to renounce totally from animal products, but we all should at least try to reduce our meat and dairy consumption. 

Supply chain

The last part of the food emissions are produced in the supply chain. In this area it is difficult to have a big impact, but one thing that is always good to have in mind, is to look for regional products and fresh food with little packaging.

Conclusion

As you can see, daily decisions like the question of what we eat have an impact on a global level. Although you might feel that one person will not make that much of a change, you have to realise that every day millions of other people around the world probably have the same thought, and if all these people make little changes we can achieve real developments. 

For me, it is important to note that, of course, no one is perfect and no one can change one’s life completely in a day, but there is no need for that. At the moment the most important thing is that more and more people become aware of the impact they have on their environment and on our planet. Therefore every little step we take towards a more sustainable future, even on the personal level helps the great cause: preserving our civilization on our planet.

Sources:

https://ourworldindata.org/emissions-by-sector#food-production-is-responsible-for-one-quarter-of-the-world-s-greenhouse-gas-emissions https://planetaryvegan.net/2018/12/09/dietary-change-is-essential-for-forests-and-climate/

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