It’s hard to escape conversation around changes in the climate. Online, broadcast and print stories roll out at a pace that’s hard to keep up with and yet it seems like we are peeling the layers of an onion when it comes to causes and contributors to these climate changes. 

In a recent conversation with Lane County Waste Reduction Specialist Angie Marzano, I was surprised to learn how food waste significantly increases carbon emissions and how Lane County, our cities, businesses and residents have opportunities to participate in educational opportunities and programs that begin to address the impacts of food waste.

Studies show that 40% of the food grown or imported for consumption is wasted. As food insecurity continues to be an issue (one and seven people in the US is food insecure) in Lane County, throughout Oregon and across the United States, it seems incomprehensible and unconscionable that we allow nearly half of all our food to end up in compost piles or landfills.  But before we point a finger at manufacturers, food stores, and restaurants, let’s clarify: the 40% figure applies to each of us as individuals as well.  And, it’s not only the food that’s going bad and being put in the garbage. How much plastic, metal and other packaging material is thrown away with our food? Food waste means forest destruction, waste diversion from rivers, soil degradation and biodiversity loss. As we begin to understand the complexity and magnitude of this issue, we begin to see how significantly we are affecting the environment, our communities and our residents. 

Pie at 100 Mile Bakery
Pie at 100 Mile Bakery by Joni Kabana

Lane County’s involvement in waste reduction education and programming has been happening for many years, however, efforts to increase staffing and develop programming that aligns with the Department of Environmental Quality’s 2050 Vision began seven years ago. These efforts aim to prevent waste before products get to consumers versus past efforts to divert waste after products have been consumed. It’s an upstream rather than a downstream approach with benefits accruing to communities, businesses and individuals. It starts with education and pilot programs that provide valuable data.

We live in a region that has developed a strong reputation for manufacturing and distributing incredible food and beverage products. Residents enjoy this bounty year-round and visitors come to the region to have food and beverage experiences. Together we can tackle our food waste problem by developing programs and processes that allow us all to better enjoy what we have.  Learn more by visiting