Why Your Lunch Matters to More Than Just Your Stomach

Did you know: The food companies scored by Climate Counts pulled in over $253.7 billion dollars last year? Or that these eleven companies have over a million employees?
Sep 17, 2010 8:18 AM ET


As a culture, Americans discard more than 25% (approximately 25.9 million tons) of all the food produced domestically (U.S. Department of Agriculture). 4,000 miles east, nearly 8 million residents of Niger (more than half the country’s population) are facing hunger and starvation due to the droughts and flooding that have ravaged their food crops. In the 21st century, when we can move information around the globe in milliseconds, the juxtaposition between a country fighting obesity and a country fighting starvation in a world fighting climate change should leave an emotional emptiness in all of our stomachs.
Americans consume too much while developing nations don’t have enough. If you’ve made it through grammar school, you’ve heard this before. Making climate-conscious consumer decisions like eating the right portions, marking healthy choices, and supporting local organic food producers are all changes we can make in our own lives that impact our bodies and the amount of food waste we generate. As a culture we’re beginning to connect the dots between healthy food and healthy lives. Organizations like SlowfoodUSA.org and TeensTurningGreen.org are promoting more localized, healthier meals and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution won an Emmy this year. But we’re missing the bigger dots.
Natural disasters are happening with more force and frequency, think about this year’s Tennessee flood, Russian wheat crisis and flooding in Pakistan – all of which happened in the span of six months. As our climate changes more rapidly we are we’re running out of time to take the necessary steps to save our planet. We need to connect the bigger dots and start changing the priorities of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters: multinational corporations.
Let’s put this in context.
We all realize Americans waste food. What we often don’t realize is how much energy goes into the production of the food we throw out. More energy is wasted in the perfectly edible food discarded by people in the US each year than is extracted annually from the oil and gas reserves off the nation’s coastlines. That’s larger than the BP oil spill, much larger...
And that’s not even the most interesting part.
Almost all of the packaging around our peanut butter, our cereal, our bread and most of the other food products we buy comes from cardboard sourced from trees and plastics derived from fossil fuels. More striking, the energy used to make the packaging around our food is merely one link in a long chain to your stomach. The entire cycle from harvesting the ingredients, to shipping the ingredients, to modifying the ingredients, to trucking finished products to your supermarket (where more often than not we drive to pick them up) is riddled with inefficiencies, wasting energy and releasing a huge quantity of greenhouse gases. But even the immense amount of energy lost in getting millions of peanut butter cans, cereal boxes, and loaves of bread, to our homes pales in comparison to the power consumers have to change the way multinational corporations serve up our meals.
What they skip in grammar school is that we can change business as usual. By educating ourselves on what companies are doing (or aren’t doing) about climate change, we will know where to spend our dollars and to which companies we should raise our voices. There are clear differences in how Kraft and General Mills or Unilever and Nestle or Coca-Cola and Pepsi address their climate impacts, and the Climate Counts scores show you how big those differences can be.
Climate Counts company scores let you see which of these companies are showing true climate action by scoring them on the four key benchmarks to climate leadership: reviewing emissions, reducing emissions, public policy positions, and transparency. So when it comes to those necessity purchases, you have the power to use your dollars to support those companies that reflect your own concerns about climate change. But the fight against climate change doesn’t stop at your wallet, Climate Counts gives you the power to “raise your voice” directly to these same global corporations through e-mail and Twitter.
Did you know: The food companies scored by Climate Counts pulled in over $253.7 billion dollars last year? Or that these eleven companies have over a million employees?
So remember, when you look around at American super-sized meals which take super-sized journeys before they reach our plates, there are companies harvesting, modifying, packaging and distributing that food, our food. But, if you know that Unilever – think Dove, Hellmann’s, Slim-Fast and more – scores an 80/100 on the Climate Counts scorecard or that ConAgra Foods – think Healthy Choice, Chef Boyardee, Swiss Miss and more – scores a 31/100 and that there are nine other companies in the food products sector with scores you should check, then you’ll know who’s taking climate change serious and who’s not. The bottom line: if you speak up, they’ll listen.
Mark Harrison is the Campaign Coordinator at ClimateCounts.org, he is currently running Back-2-Cool, a campaign focused on alerting consumers about the climate actions (or inactions) of the companies behind back-to-school shopping ads. Back-2-Cool is supported by these great organizations:


Climate Counts