Wasted Energy

What if I told you our food waste represents 2 percent of our national energy use? And then what if I told you that figure was based on the prehistoric (OK, mid 90s) figure that we waste 27 percent of our food? Is that something that might interest you?

The above tidbits come from a recent study out of the Univ. of Texas, which found that the American food chain squanders about 2030 trillion BTU  through its wasted food. I linked to “Wasted Food, Wasted Energy” earlier, but it’s worth further consideration.

And Popular Mechanics does just that in writing about the study. The piece saves us some of the inevitable brain pain that results from reading Amanda Cuellar and Michael Webber’s (strong, but complicated) work.

Still, no pain, no gain. A few thoughts from the study:

  • The good news here is that there’s much room for improvement. Reduced waste can mean reduced energy consumption. By a lot. Trimming waste by 25 percent would mean 507.5 trillion BTU saved.
  • I like how they break down wastage by food type. For example, meat is the most energy draining food product, but people don’t waste it as freely as some other items. Hence, it’s not the top energy drain, a title belonging to dairy.
  • The amount of energy that comes from transportation is a real selling point for the local food movement. Somewhat surprisingly, vegetables required the most energy to transport (and process).
  • Given the above, it wasn’t so surprising that vegetables had the second highest amount of energy embedded in their waste.
  • Hooray for beans, peas and lentils! These legumes took the prize for being the least wasted and least energy-intensive foods.
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