Food Waste and Climate Change

Being a “foodie,” Catherine is motivated to learn more about the food waste and climate change connection, and to take personal action to reduce her family’s “foodprint” (or, food-related carbon footprint).

She is inspired by what she learned at a recent documentary screening and panel discussion on the topic. The one hour film, WASTED! The Story of Food Waste is excellent, well worth the time, and amazingly also is available free on CBC’s web-site.

Inspite of the staggeringly depressing opening central fact of the documentary – that one-third of all food grown for human consumption ends up in the garbage (for Canadians, it is even worse at 60% of all food produced being lost and wasted annually !) – it actually ends up being quite an upbeat film, as narrator Anthony Bourdain (R.I.P.), and other celebrity chefs educate viewers about the various dimensions of the problem, while spot lighting innovations and solutions happening around the world where individuals, farmers, chefs, entrepreneurs, non-profits, and governments are rising to the challenge and are tackling the (avoidable) food waste –  carbon emissions problem at every level. One take-away from watching the documentary is the idea of food capture, and the inverted pyramid of priorities for re-directing food, before it is wasted:

The goal at all costs is to avoid sending food waste to become garbage in landfills, where it emits methane as it decomposes, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times worse for global warming than is carbon dioxide.  Sadly, the statistic cited in the documentary is that, in the US, 90% of food waste ends up in landfill.

How long does it take for lettuce to decompose in landfill? The answer is startling and disconcerting:

There is good news, however.

Just as tree planting (or donating) for carbon capture is something individuals may act on right away to make a difference for climate change–no need for more research, committees, legislation or policy—although spring weather for planting helps.  So, too, it is possible for individuals to contribute to slowing global warming through our personal actions to avoid and reduce food waste. And, we even stand to save money (estimated by Canadian researches as up to $1700 per household per year) while doing our part to save Planet Earth.

If you are a Torontonian (or Edmontonian, see below), there is even more good news and another reason for civic pride.

Catherine learned from the Food Waste panel event she attended as research for this Blog post about Anaerobic Digesters and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). Apparently, the City of Toronto is an Innovator in North America through its implementation of leading edge methods for managing our Compost waste. The City has an Anaerobic Digester which processes the compost that residents put out in our green bins on garbage day and converts it into RNG, which fuels the garbage trucks that pick up our trash. How cool is that!

The World Economic Forum thinks it’s pretty cool, and profiled our Closed Loop Digester system in this article:

This article by SoCalGas, explains what is Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) and why it is carbon-neutral, and in some cases, such as in capturing and converting food waste, it is even carbon-negative:

CBC also explains what happens to food waste in Toronto’s anaerobic digester in these two articles:, and,

And now there are more of these being built in Canada, Lucy is happy to read that Edmonton has one too! The brand new High Solids Anaerobic Digestion Facility (HSADF) has been recognized with the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) 2018 Environmental Achievement Award. Maple Reinders is recognized for its  success in implementing environmentally sound practices, and for their work in communicating sustainable approaches. For instance, it reuses the methane produced from the waste to generate heat and electricity for the facility and soon Edmontonians will use a new green bin compost program with the plans to divert 90% of waste from landfills

Food Waste and Climate Change

Some sobering facts from this UN primer: If world food waste were a country, it would be the third largest carbon emitter in the world, after first place China, and second place, US. Unfortunately, Canada also is among the top ten countries in carbon emissions

Research by Second Harvest, “The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste,” quantifies that fully one-third of food that is lost and wasted in Canada annually is “avoidable and is edible food that could be redirected to support people in our communities. The total financial value of this potentially rescuable lost and wasted food is a staggering $49.46 billion.” The 30-page solutions-oriented Roadmap report is here: and, for Readers who want to delve deeper, the detailed, 122-page Technical report is here:

While addressing the two-thirds of food waste and loss that occurs during production and distribution is beyond the direct control of individual concerned citizens to alter, fully one-third of food waste and loss is within the direct power of consumers to impact positively.

As a public service alert, we want to profile information on page 13 of the Roadmap Report, which identifies barriers to rescuing and donating food, including confusion between “expiry” and “best before” dates. According to the report, in Canada, “only five foods require expiry dates: nutritional supplements; meal replacements; baby formula and other human milk substitutes; pharmacist-sold foods for very low-energy diets; and, formulated liquid diets.”

“Best before” dates do not mean “bad after”. (Typically, the dates are for inventory control).

The Roadmap report states that, “(F)ood with best before dates are safe to eat past the date if they are unopened and stored at the proper temperature. Foods past the best before date can also be donated to food rescue programs, if Public Health guidelines are followed.

Innovation – Toast Ale

We hope these tasty suds come to a nearby pub soon so we can add beer drinking to our personal climate action plans!  Toast Ale was profiled in the Wasted documentary. You can learn their story of taking bread waste and turning it into ale here:

Massimo Botttura is one of the celebrity chefs profiled in the food waste documentary. He is tackling the issue of food waste in the restaurant industry in many ways and expanding his actions to several countries. You can learn about his “Food for Soul” project and Refettorios and Social Tables at:

Innovation – Le Curve Pasta

Bottura’s innovative “Le Curve Pasta,” is apparently available at Eataly stores. Now that Catherine knows about it, and since Toronto now has its own Eataly, she plans to look for Le Curve Pasta the next time she is in the vicinity of Bay and Bloor Streets

Media Choices

Readers may prefer different media formats and approaches to learning.

In this spirit, we are pleased to be able to offer different options for Readers who may be interested in learning more.

Video: “Wasted: The Story of Food Waste”, available on CBC’s website (one hour) at:

Article: “South Korea once recycled 2% of its food waste. Now it recycles 95%,” by the World Economic Forum

Why Trees Matter

Articles: Five-part series by Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk on his conversations with “globally bestselling (Canadian) botanist, author and filmmaker, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, ranging from plant medicine to climate change to healing the planet and the human heart.” February 24:; February 25: (Flawed thinking that got us to climate change); February 26: (Mother Trees); February 27:; and, February 28: (If We Plant a Billion Trees to Save Us They Must Be Native Trees). Thank you, Reader Terry for putting this author and these thoughtful articles on our radar!

Podcast:  The BBC examines “the extent to which planting trees could help to mitigate climate change” with interviews by Professor Tom Crowther (ETH Zurich University), Darren Woodcroft (Woodland Trust, UK) singer Inna Modja and Dr. Susan Cook (The Nature Conservancy, US)

Poem and poetry reading: One of Catherine’s favourite poets is Mary Oliver. Her poem, “When I am Among Trees,” is presented and read by Amanda Palmer, at:

Next week’s Blog post will include more profiles of our favourite trees, tax breaks for large-scale tree planting and a book recommendation by Vancouver Reader Terry.

Last word and line, to Mary Oliver — “You too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”

Just eight weeks until Earth Day on April 22, 2020.

One thought on “Food Waste and Climate Change

  1. Maureen Drake

    This post on Food waste and climate change was one of my favourites to read. It is shocking to me to see how much goes uneaten in this country when so many could benefit. When I see the hungry clients at our Out of the Cold program pushing plated food into a old plastic bag mixing all the food items together, forming what we would see as an unappetizing clump but which they will eat later , it angers me that this could be avoided. Thanks always for all your research, links, and photos. I look forward every week to see you have gathered together to keep us informed and encouraging us to make those small changes in our own lives.


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