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Food Waste, Methane and Climate Change

By Climate Central

As Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful and celebrate, we can sometimes overdo it. Frequently, the food from Thanksgiving dinner doesn't all get eaten, and while that food often makes for good leftovers, some inevitably gets thrown away. The USDA estimates 35 percent of turkey meat cooked at Thanksgiving gets wasted.

Food waste isn’t limited to Thanksgiving. Amazingly, up to 40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. intended for consumption is not eaten, which equates to about 20 pounds of food per person each month. Food that gets thrown out ends up in landfills, where it gradually rots and releases methane, a strong greenhouse gas. Globally, If food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the U.S.

The decay of food waste in landfills is not the only source of greenhouse gases. The resources needed to produce the food also have a carbon footprint. Globally, the effect of processing the food that is wasted is equal to about 3.3 billion tons of CO2. To cut back on the effect, check to see if you can donate some of your leftovers to local shelters, send the leftovers home with your guests, or freeze them, where they can keep for up to a year.