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Cornell researchers figured out how to reduce food waste: Add more grocery stores

Cornell researchers figured out how to reduce food waste: Add more grocery stores
[Photo: Oleg Magni/Pexels]

Did you know that wasted food causes as much carbon emission as road transport? It does. A third of all U.S. food is wasted, totaling over 1,000 pounds a year of trashed food per family of four. Limiting global warming depends on decreasing wasted food, which inspired new research from Cornell University.

The findings are counterintuitive: Having more grocery stores results in people buying smaller quantities of food more frequently, and therefore wasting less food. Shoppers also spend less overall, saving on their grocery bills. “There’s less food sitting at home,” said Elena Belavina, associate professor at the Johnson School of Business at Cornell University, in a statement. “As a result, there is a much lower likelihood that something will be spoiled, and we’ll actually be able to eat all of the stuff that we’ve purchased before its expiration date.”

Up until now, most conservation efforts have aimed at grocery store inventory strategies and telling consumers to be less wasteful; these findings suggest that city planning efforts might be more effective. The researchers emphasize that having too many grocery stores is also wasteful, but that most U.S. cities have far too few. In Chicago, for example, adding just 3-4 more stores for every 3.8 square miles would save shoppers 1-4% off their grocery bills and stop 6-9% of grocery waste. New York City’s many produce stands and markets come closest to ideal density.

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