WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2010 — Generations of Moms and Grandmas have preached the virtues of not wasting food. Now scientists are reporting a compelling new reason to follow this advice: It could save enormous amounts of energy, according to the latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning podcast series, “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.” They say that the United States could immediately save the energy equivalent of about 350 million barrels of oil a year — without spending a penny or putting a ding in the quality of life: Just stop wasting food.
Reducing the waste of food in the United States could save the energy equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil a year. Credit: iStock
The new Global Challenges podcast and website describe scientific research explaining that food contains energy and requires energy to produce, process, and transport. Estimates indicate that between 8 and 16 percent of energy consumption in the United States went toward food production in 2007. Michael Webber and Amanda Cuéllar, in their study in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that it takes the equivalent of about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce, package, prepare, preserve and distribute a year’s worth of food in the United States.
They said that despite this large energy investment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that people in the U.S. waste about 27 percent of their food. The scientists realized that the waste might represent a largely unrecognized opportunity to conserve energy and help control global warming.
The new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from ACS at www.acs.org/globalchallenges. ACS encourages educators, schools, museums, science centers, news organizations, and others to embed links to Global Challenges on their websites. Recent podcasts in the series include the importance of hand-washing to stop the spread of disease; nanotechnology for more sustainable buildings and other structures, producing cost-effective biodiesel from sewage sludge and green exercise for better mental health.
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. It includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of nutritious food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health.
The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
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