Gallery: US Could Save 350 Million Barrels of Oil by Not Wasting Food


It seems as you grow older there are more and more reasons why you should have listened to your parents when you were a kid. Well, here’s a new one to add to the list of dinner table orders – stop wasting your food. A new study out in the journal Environmental Science & Technology says that the American people could save a whopping 350 million barrels of oil — or 2% of our total energy usage — by just not wasting food. Looks like leftovers are more than just a midnight snack – they could be your ticket to helping the environment.

It is estimated that the American people as a whole waste up to 27% of the food that is purchased in stores — that’s almost 1/3 of all food created! The authors of this latest study, Michael Webber and Amanda Cuéllar, did some clever calculations to figure out exactly how much energy is expended for that wasted food and therefore how much energy could be saved if we stopped throwing it away. It turns out that it takes about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce a year’s worth of food in the US and the authors’ conservative estimate is that we waste 2030 trillion BTU of energy each year in food which they — again conservatively — estimated as being equal to 350 million barrels of oil.

A lot of energy goes into creating food – pesticides and insecticides, the irrigation process, the harvest, and packaging and transport. All of these things add up to a lot of oil expended over the life of a carrot or loaf of bread. Now, I’m sure some of you are out there yelling at your computer screen, “but I compost!” Well, composting is a great thing to do, but you’re still wasting. Even though you’re being a do-gooder with your leftovers, it’s better to not throw them out at all. Moral of the story? Let’s all stop over-buying and start getting creative with our leftovers.

Via Science Daily


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  1. global energy October 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I guess the only people who won’t be happy with this article are the homeless people. They know just how much food goes to waste in America. It keeps them alive.

  2. Mirela Monte October 4, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    This doesn’t even discuss the waste that occurs each and every day at each and every supermarket in America. Daily, massive quantities of food are just thrown out in the trash. I have a client who works for a supermarket and she told me about this. I asked her why this food is thrown away, instead of being donated. She agreed that it’s a waste, but company policy does not allow for the food to be donated; it MUST be thrown away. With so many people living in poverty, why can’t we have some programs set up to make this food available to the needy, instead of being thrown away in the garbage?

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