Did you know that food waste accounts for more than 8% of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions? That amount makes it a significant contributor to climate change. According to the United Nations, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, only behind China and the US. There’s no better time than Earth Month to make us aware of the effects of food waste on the planet.
About 17% of global food production may go wasted, according to the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2021, with 61% of this waste coming from households, 26% from food service, and 13% from retail. Food waste burdens waste management systems, increases food insecurity, and is a major contributor to the global problems of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
Opportunities provided by food waste reduction have remained largely untapped and under-exploited to date. But that may be changing.
Earth Day 2021 will mark the 51st anniversary of this holiday. Typically, Earth Day is assigned a different focus each year; this year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth.” In the weeks leading up to this year’s celebration on April 22, various organizations and groups around the world are encouraging action and participation in initiatives that analyze the urgent need for environmental justice, sustainability, and climate solutions.
Recognizing that recycling isn’t the panacea we all once believed it to be, lots of Earth Month efforts are reinforcing efforts to reuse and upcycle as many items as possible. Focusing on ways that our food can be part of the solution to climate change is imperative.
“Meaningful solutions to food waste are imperative to reducing our carbon footprint,” says Jillian Semaan, director of food and environment for EARTHDAY.ORG, the global organizer of Earth Day, which will hold a one-on-one, real-life solutions “fireside chat” as an Earth Day Live digital event.
As like-minded organizations working to advance climate solutions and build more resilient, just food systems, Barnana, creator of organic, sustainable snacks, will join EARTHDAY.ORG (EDO) through a partnerships that will occur during Earth Month and span the rest of the year. Highlights of the collaboration include a focus on educating people about upcycled foods to reduce food waste and the development of artwork for Earth Day 2021 by the renowned Brazilian street artist Speto (Paulo Cesar Silva).
“Taken as a whole, this piece symbolizes our need to relate to each other and work towards a brighter future restoring our Earth,” said Speto. “I’m humbled to offer my contribution and hope the art will inspire people to do their part to turn things around.”
From São Paulo, Speto created original artwork for Earth Day 2021 in his free-spirited style of folk art reminiscent of “Cordel Literature,” homemade books sold by Brazilian street vendors. His piece features young people, symbolizing the hope they represent for our future, working together in harmony while cradled in the benevolent antlers of a strong stag. Speto sees the deer as a symbol of peace, serenity, and kindness — gentle, but not completely defenseless, it can be very strong and brave when the need arises. The sun represents prosperity through its life-giving energy.
“The momentous energy gathering for this year’s Earth Day is palpable, and Barnana is proud to do its part for our planet by helping explain the power of upcycled foods to reduce food waste,” said Caue Suplicy, founder of Barnana. “As an exciting bonus, it’s gratifying to have introduced Speto, my fellow native Brazilian and one of the world’s most talented street artists, to the dedicated EDO team to create the official poster and related artwork for Earth Day 2021.”
Art will show its power to inspire climate action. 2021’s Official Earth Day poster debuted on March 31st. Introduced to EARTHDAY.ORG by fellow Brazilian Caue Suplicy, founder of Barnana snacks brand, Speto is making the poster available through Barnana’s website. Profits from sales will be donated to EDO to advance global climate literacy and conservation education efforts with a special focus on Brazil.
The artwork is available for a limited time as a poster, on an organic cotton t-shirt, and on a reusable canvas shopping tote through Earth Month. Profits from sales will be donated to EDO to advance global climate literacy and conservation education efforts with a special focus on work in Brazil.
What are Upcycled Foods?
According to the Upcycled Food Association, upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. Think of it as derived from ancient traditions with the philosophy that you use all of what you have. It’s about doing more with less and elevating all food to its highest and best use.
So upcycled food is about reducing food waste by creating high quality, nutritious food products out of the nutrients that slip through the cracks of our food system. A 2020 white paper offers the following synthesis of the benefits of upcycled foods.
Upcycled foods are made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up in a food waste destination.
- According to the Food Loss and Waste Protocol from the World Resources Institute, the food waste destinations are when food ends up in places like incinerators, as animal feed, or in landfill. By avoiding these destinations, upcycled food makes better use of the energy expended in growing, transporting, and preparing that food.
- 8% of human-cause greenhouse gas emissions come from food loss and waste, which is why reducing food waste is considered the single greatest solution to climate change according to Project Drawdown.
Upcycled foods are value-added products.
- Globally, we lose around $1 trillion per year on food that is wasted or lost. Upcycled food captures that value, and leverages it to create a sustainable and resilient food system.
- These products are targeted for human consumption.
- Food is elevated to its highest and best use.
Upcycled foods are for human consumption, but upcycled ingredients could be included in animal feed, pet food, cosmetics, and more.
- They have an auditable supply chain.
- 28% of agricultural land goes to grow food that is never eaten.
- They help reduce waste by utilizing all the nutrients grown on farms, helping farmers get more value out of their land.
Upcycled food will help to feed a growing population without increasing deforestation or putting extra pressure on the environment.
- They indicate which ingredients are upcycled on their labels.
- More than half of consumers want to buy more upcycled foods.
- These foods give everyday people the ability to vote with their dollars to end food waste.
- By indicating which ingredients are upcycled, consumers know they are spending their money in a way that aligns with their values.
To make learning about upcycled foods fun, Barnana and EARTHDAY.ORG developed an interactive quiz.
Other elements of the EARTHDAY.ORG-Barnana partnership focus specifically on food waste reduction education throughout Earth Month. Barnana has a mission is to provide innovative, healthier, delicious, banana-based snacks while minimizing its impact on the environment. Barnana is a certified B-Corporation, focused on expanding its partnerships with farmers and indigenous communities in the Amazon. Since its inception, Barnana has upcycled more than 100 million perfectly good bananas as a base for lightly-sweet Banana Bites and Cookie Brittle.
Note: Other upcycling events are taking place throughout Earth Month. For example, in accordance with this year’s theme “Restore Our Earth,” the German Consulate General in Atlanta and the DIY Academy in Cologne have partnered up and are organizing a virtual Upcycling Workshop on Earth Day, April 22, 11:30 AM – 12:30 pm.