Massive GHG Reductions Possible with Reduced Global Food Waste : Global Overshoot Day: US Tops the Charts in Food Waste

food waste Global Overshoot Day Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Economist Intelligence Unit Food Sustainability

A study for Global Overshoot Day by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit Food Sustainability has ranked the United States last at preserving the world’s resources.

Global Overshoot Day measures the amount of time it takes each year to consume more resources than the Earth is able to regenerate. This year’s Overshoot Day falls today, July 29 - three days before last year. According to the Barilla Center, in less than five decades, Overshoot Day has moved forward from December 29th.

The Parma, Italy based Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition noted that food production and consumption account for 26% of the globe’s ecological footprint, yet mankind wastes a third of all food.

Italians, for example, throw away 65 kilograms a year, according to the Barilla-Economist study. US citizens meanwhile were said to waste 95 kilograms each year. A total of 1.3 billion tonnes of food ends up uneaten or thrown away.

The impact on climate change is enormous. According to the Center, when we think about our planet’s rising temperature, most of us concentrate on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks, and other fossil fuel-powered machines.

These emissions are worth our attention, yet another culprit receives far less than it deserves: the way we produce, transform and consume food. Agriculture puts excessive pressures on the land, water and climate system – accounting for almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions. The study found that if everyone lived like US citizens, we would need as many as five planets.

“There is a lot of talk about sustainability on a global level, although unfortunately the concept is not always associated with nutrition,” said Marta Antonelli, Head of the Research Program of the Barilla Foundation. “We could all do something to improve the situation given that the food system contributes more than 30% to our greenhouse gas emissions.”

However, the report noted that some countries are making progress. In Milan, the city aims to cut food waste by 50% by 2030. France, said to be one of the world’s most sustainable countries, uses only 68% of the land that could be used in agriculture and makes a ‘virtuous use of water’. The US is too is home to innovative projects to recycle water used in agriculture.

The study also highlighted the notion that if we moved the date of Overshoot Day forward by five days each year, humanity would return to being in harmony with the planet by 2050. This, however, would require adopting a new diet, halving the consumption of meat and substituting vegetables

"In this challenge for change, our food choices have weight,” said Antonelli. “If we cut the amount of meat by half and moved to a vegetable-based diet, we would move Overshoot day forward by 15 days. If each person reduced wasted food by 50% around the globe, the Overshoot date would move forward by a further 11 days.”


The Barilla Foundation has developed the Double Food and Environmental Pyramid. It a places the classic food pyramid favouring fresh vegetables and fruit alongside an "environmental" pyramid classifying food according to their ecological footprint. Foods recommended by nutritionists for our health are the best for that of the Earth. It recommends:

Increasing the consumption of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, especially whole grains, nuts and legumes

Consuming moderate amounts of animal protein

Avoiding waste.

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