Leftover food on platesJohn Mandyck is Chief Sustainability Officer of UTC Building and Industrial Systems, an engineering and refrigerated transportation company.

Mandyck: “If you just take the CO2 in the food that we waste, it represents 3.3 billion metric tons of CO2. If food waste were a country by itself, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.”

The emissions in food come from the tractors in the fields; the transportation to market; and the electricity used by water pumps and food packaging facilities.

Food waste typically evokes images of leftovers in the trash, but a significant amount of spoilage occurs during food production and distribution – long before meat, fish, dairy and produce ever reach a kitchen.

Mandyck says developing countries could reduce their food waste by enacting food safety standards that encourage proper transport and storage of perishable foods.

Individuals can waste less, too, by buying only what they need; bringing home leftovers after dining out, and not overlooking produce with slight cosmetic imperfections. It’s food for thought.

*Editor’s Note: Edited April 8.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Harvesting a Midwest corn crop (copyright Mckown, Dreamstime.com).

More Resources
How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change
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Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources
In Battle Against Food Waste, Rethinking “Use By” Labels
Power and Cold’ Professor Welcomes World Cold Chain Summit to Reduce Food Waste to the U.K.

John Wihbey, a writer, educator, and researcher, is an assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a correspondent for Boston Globe Ideas. Previously, he was an assistant director...