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Food Environmental Impacts and Actions

Why food matters

The production and consumption of food leads to significant environmental impacts, and an estimated 25 to 40 percent of all food produced or imported for consumption in the United States is never eaten.  The 2050 Vision identify wasted food prevention as a priority for Oregon because of the combined environmental burdens of food production, distribution, refrigeration, preparation and final disposal.

What DEQ is doing

Aimed at helping producers and large consumers make sound environmental decisions, DEQ has prepared a series of documents regarding the environmental footprints of a variety of foods.

DEQ also recently finalized its Strategy for Preventing the Wasting of Food, which identifies nine projects that will change the current conversation around preventing the wasting of food and make significant, measurable contributions to the state’s waste reduction goals.
DEQ also works with local partners to rescue edible food for redistribution to Oregon’s food insecure populations.  And for wasted food that cannot be prevented or rescued, DEQ works to find the best end-of-life solutions possible, such as composting, anaerobic digestion and agricultural use. DEQ has also sponsored research to compare the environmental impacts of different end-of-life options.

Governor’s Executive Order to reduce and regulate greenhouse gas emissions

On May 10, 2020, Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order 20-04 directing multiple state agencies to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of climate change.  Paragraph 4.F  of the Executive Order directs DEQ to “take actions necessary to prevent and recover food waste, with the goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.”

DEQ has prepared a preliminary work plan that outlines the actions DEQ will take to achieve the governor’s goal.  That work plan can be found here:

Quick facts about wasted food in the U.S.

  • The purchase of food contributes close to 15 percent of Oregon’s consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions. Only our use of vehicles contributes more to Oregon’s carbon footprint.

  • Up to 40 percent of the food grown or imported for consumption is ultimately never eaten.

  • Approximately 1.3 percent of GDP, or $218 billion, is spent growing, processing distributing, preparing food that is never eaten.

  • 25 percent of the fresh water supply in the US is used to produce food that is never eaten.

  • 2 percent of energy use in the US is dedicated to growing, manufacturing, transporting, refrigerating, and cooking food that is never eaten – or enough electricity to power 54 million homes for a year.

  • The average American consumer now wastes over 50 percent more food than the average American did in the 1970s.

  • One in seven people living in the US is food insecure.