Agriculture & Food Waste

The fight against climate change may seem daunting, but agriculture may be the best sector to start. Agriculture production is a major part of the climate change issue because of its greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb and reemit heat energy. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, chlorofluorocarbons, and ozone. Some of these gases are emitted as a product of agricultural activity.

Methane comes in multiple forms within agriculture and food production. Livestock ruminant during enteric fermentation-the digestive process by which microbes break down plant materials-produces methane emissions.

Organic agriculture waste like foods radiate so-called ‘landfill gases’, which include both carbon dioxide and methane. LFG’s are a grouping of greenhouse gases released from organic materials in landfills as they decompose. Energy and transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions can also be traced to agricultural origins.

Nitrous oxide is regularly used in fertilizers for agriculture crops.

What Can Individuals Do?

The way that we manage agriculture, food, and waste will determine whether or not we achieve the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. The individual citizen, or consumer, can do their best to eat sustainably. This could entail transitioning to a plant based-diet, shopping locally, buying seasonal foods, and reducing household food waste. Plant-based diets increase the amount of acreage available for human-consumable crops by reducing the demand for animal feed crops. Buying local and in-season foods lessens energy for transporting foods across long distances.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in 2018, more than 42 million tons of food wound up in landfills or combustion centers.

According to United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimations, nearly one-third of the food produced globally ultimately ends up as waste.

Reducing waste can be as simple as tracking the foods or the number of calories that your household regularly consumes between grocery trips. Once you know how much you eat, you can limit the number of perishable foods that you purchase to fit your household’s consumption habits. This simple tip can save consumers money and reduce household methane footprints.

ripe apple, avocados and banana

The way we store fresh fruits and vegetables can determine the rate at which they ripen and how long they ultimately last. For example, certain fruits ripen at a slower rate when stored separately from other foods due to ethylene. Ethylene is produced in multiple fruits, including apples, avocados, bananas, kiwis, peppers, and tomatoes. Ethylene is a natural gas that is the apparent source of the ripening and eventually the spoiling process. As fruits ripen, the amount of ethylene that they emit can increase. This gas not only expedites the ripening rates in the fruits that produce it, but also in nearby fruits. Storing your fruits separately can extend the rate at which they ripen and allow them to last longer.

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