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YALIVoices: Reduce Carbon Emissions by Eliminating Food Waste
April 13, 2022

A guest blog by Academy for Women Entrepreneurs Alumnae Folawemi Ololade Umunna

Folawemi stands in front of a poster with her arms crossed wearing a blue blazer and a black skirt. She is leading a training. The poster says "Mitigating the Impacts of Climate Sustainability and Ethics in the Agricultural Sector"
Folawemi leading a 2 day training, “Mitigating the Impacts of Climate Sustainability and Ethics in the Agricultural Sector,” through her NGO, the Climate and Ecological Protection Initiative.

We must collaboratively strive toward sustaining the Earth, our home! 

It begins by re-thinking how we treat our environment, and it begs for an urgent actionable plan. Why? Because assuredly we will change; whether by design or by disaster is entirely up to us! Already in place are climate action plans that include a switch to renewable energy sources and tree planting. Nonetheless, there is “low-hanging fruit” that can globally and measurably reduce carbon emissions: the elimination of food waste

Carbon emissions are a type of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that occur when carbon dioxide (CO2) enters the air after a human activity or process. There are natural carbon emission sources including decomposition, ocean release, and respiration. In contrast, human sources come from activities like cement production, deforestation, and burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.

Food production accounts for approximately a quarter (26%) of GHG. What is hard to make sense of is the amount of GHG emissions that are caused by the production of food that is never eaten! Food waste has been estimated to amount to one-third of food production, emitting 4.4 gigatonnes of CO2, and more than 6% of total global emissions. If it was a country, food waste would be the third-largest GHG emitter. Specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa, post-harvest losses account for up to a fifth of harvests in a region where so many people are food insecure.

A Call to Action: Carbon Emissions Reduction By Eliminating Food Waste

How can you be a part of the solution? I want to challenge us to begin a no-food-waste movement and commit to a conscious reduction in our Food Waste Index. Begin to document the types of food that you habitually waste and note why waste is recurring in such food. Can something be done about it? Are there crops that you see harvested in your community that don’t get properly stored and go to waste before they can be sold? Climate Smart Agriculture methods help eliminate food waste. Here are a few methods I use to personally reduce food waste that may be helpful for you:

  • Write a shopping list based on the food items you need. I do not make new food purchases until I finish the food I have at home.
  • Have a realistic food timetable to guide purchasing decisions. In the rare case that a food item is going bad that I cannot finish, I have a dedicated set of folks in my neighborhood that I donate to. 
  • Repurpose your food. Fruits are the number one item that tends to go bad in my household, and I have since learned how to make juice from it! 
  • Use portion control to determine the actual amount of food you consume.

Download the CEPI Food Action Plan Worksheet and let us become an integral part of a Carbon Emissions Reduction Movement.

Folawemi in a black dress stands beside a male colleague in front of a poster that says "Inaugural Stakeholders' Meeting on the Lagos GreenHouse Gas Inventory (L-GHGI) Project
Folawmi stands with a colleague at the inaugural stakeholders meeting for the Lagos Greenhouse Gas Inventory Project, a project Folawemi’s firm Carbon Data Consulting partakes.

Folawemi is the founder of the nonprofit organization Climate and Ecological Protection Initiative. Its mission is to reduce carbon emissions in Nigeria. Folawemi’s firm Carbon Data Consulting offers tailor-made carbon measurement and verification training for manufacturing, oil, and gas sectors.

Are you interested in learning more about how to make a positive change in the environment? Visit our YALI4OurFuture page for more tools and resources.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.