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Save a Plate for the Planet: Solutions To Reduce Food’s Environmental Impact

APTIM specialist Dan Guico shares some of the biggest sources of carbon emissions from food and how to reduce food’s environmental impact.

Dan Guico | Sustainability Specialist

APTIM | Environment and Sustainability
Dan Guico has seven years’ experience in food service, serving as a sustainability manager, marketing manager, and food service director throughout Chicago. He specializes in aviation sustainability and marketing project management with accreditations in green buildings, sustainable infrastructure, and project management. Dan believes in the power of food to bring people together, celebrate culture, and initiate change



When you think of the essentials to a healthy life, what comes to mind? Clean air, fresh water, regular exercise, sufficient sleep. What about good food? Food is not merely fuel that keeps us alive day to day. The richness and history of human culture can be uncovered through different cuisines. Lifelong relationships can be forged over plates. However, there is a cost to this treasure. Every node along the lifecycle of food has a corresponding carbon footprint. In this article, we will examine some of the biggest sources of carbon emissions from food and how to reduce the impact of our diets.

Cut Carbon From Cultivation

When looking at the different categories of food, beef and shellfish lead to higher ratios of greenhouse gas emissions to weight, protein content, and kilocalories. Much of this footprint can be attributed to land or water use changes, use of fertilizers, and methane emissions. Diets incorporating more plant-based proteins or meats raised using regenerative agricultural practices can help reduce emissions through food choice alone.

Taper Emissions From Transportation

From farm to distributor, then distributor to commercial stores or kitchens, each leg of the supply chain has traditionally used fossil fuels to transport food from the place of production to final consumption. Eating seasonally and locally is one way to significantly reduce the vehicle miles your food travels, particularly if any of your staple food products are being flown into your area. Although hydrogen fuel cell and electric trucks are in the very early stages of adoption, some businesses are making net zero pledges that include the decarbonization of their logistics fleets.

Curtail Climate Change With Cooking Appliances

Incorporating cold entrees, sides, and desserts is a simple way to remove the need for energy use in food preparation, and it can also be a great way to emphasize the freshness and flavor of local produce and products. When it comes to heating and preparing meals, many culinary professionals and common cooks are familiar with gas. However, high-efficiency induction appliances provide faster heating with less waste heat and harmful combustion byproducts. Electric kitchens paired with renewable energy are a recipe for cooler kitchens and carbon-free cooking.

Abate Wasted Resources Through Wasted Food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that approximately 30–40 percent of our nation’s food supply goes to waste. Products past their expiration, inefficiencies in the supply chain, and food refusal due to aesthetic standards are just some of the reasons for the multibillion-pound loss of edible product each year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlined the Food Recovery Hierarchy, which lists food recovery strategies from most to least preferred. Source reduction is the ideal solution, which occurs when we match supply with demand. However, feeding uneaten food to other humans, animals, soil, and industrial processes can help divert waste at different points along the supply chain.

Industrial agriculture and the commercial food service industry have created unparalleled opportunities for enhanced nutrition, artistry, and other advancements available through food. To meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, everyone from farm to table will have to adopt strategies and technologies that minimize environmental impact, maximize human health, and optimize all the processes in between.

Sustainable Food Solutions With APTIM

APTIM is currently leading sustainable planning and operations for food service sectors. Some of our projects include assessments for our Sustainable Sport Index and Sustainable Solutions for Hospitality. We have also worked with airports to reduce their food waste and shared insights at the Airports Going Green Conference, which APTIM assists in hosting.

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