How Food Waste Practices Can Support Net-Zero Federal Emissions

January 31, 2022

4 minutes, 7 seconds read

How Food Waste Practices Can Support Net-Zero Federal Emissions

With a new executive order committing federal buildings to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 through operations and procurement practices, it’s time for all organizations to think bigger about the reduction of their carbon emissions.

It’s no longer sufficient to put energy-efficiency practices in place at your facilities. As this federal sustainability commitment demonstrates, organizations have a responsibility to partner with sustainable suppliers and take steps to reduce emissions throughout the entire life cycle of the goods they source. This includes food purchasing practices that reduce waste and food production energy.

New regulation on sustainability in the U.S. government

In December 2021, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at establishing the federal government as a sustainability leader. The order establishes a commitment to achieve a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050. To meet these goals, the order aims to drive a transformation in Federal procurement practices and operations to shift to usage of clean, zero-emission technologies.

Also included in the order is a requirement that each federal agency must take steps to minimize waste through more sustainable procurement and disposal practices. The order sets a requirement that agencies divert from landfills at least 50% of non-hazardous solid waste, including food and other compostable material, each year through 2025. That goal increases to 75% by fiscal year 2030.

On the other side, the chair of the Council on Environmental Quality is required to consider establishing Federal food procurement policies aimed at reducing associated greenhouse gas emissions and driving sustainability practices throughout the Federal food supply chain.

How much energy does the food system use?

It makes sense that food is incorporated into the new federal sustainability order. Food uses a tremendous amount of energy in production, preparation, and disposal. With a workforce that includes more than 2.1 million people, there’s a considerable amount of food preparation and consumption taking place within government agencies – and food production is energy intensive.

In 2018, the U.S. food system as a whole consumed about 10% of the energy used by the United States as a whole. That includes the energy demands of agriculture—such as powering pumps for irrigation or using fuel for equipment—as well as the transport, storage, and preparation of the food production process. It also includes the energy used to transport food waste to the landfill or composting facility. With 54.2 million tons of food waste generated in the U.S. each year, that’s a lot of potential to reduce energy emissions and the damaging greenhouse gasses produced by organic decomposition in the landfill.

How can we make food systems more energy-efficient?

While many states and cities are tackling the problem of food waste management, the federal government’s sustainability order has the potential to make a major impact on food production and disposal energy usage. To make the biggest impact, it helps to follow the food waste hierarchy.

Following the food waste hierarchy, the biggest impact can be achieved by reducing the amount of food consumed. The challenge has been that purchasing less requires access to accurate data on the amount and types of waste being generated.

Fortunately, new food waste disposal solutions are available that not only provide a sustainable solution for disposal, but also generate the data needed to drive more effective procurement practices.

On-site biodigesters, like the LFC biodigester, use microorganisms in a natural process to break down waste on site. This reduces emissions from the off-site transport of waste. The sealed equipment emits no odors, only a greywater that can be disposed of down the drain. Most importantly for federal sustainability initiatives, these systems come with a continuous data analytics system and connection to the LFC Cloud. This cloud-based solution provides access to data on how much food waste is digested on an hourly basis. It also provides a breakdown on what type of waste is being digested or the source of the waste.

This insight into the source or type of waste being generated can guide better procurement practices. Food purchasers can better identify which meals generate the most waste, as a by-product of preparation or what customers like the least. This allows them to make concrete improvements to their menus and purchasing. This can also help federal agencies better gauge inventory levels, predict food demand, and work within seasonal constraints.

Invest in food system sustainability

As President Biden’s executive order highlights, achieving net-zero emissions will demand transformation across a number of areas. The adoption of clean technologies will be a critical piece of this shift, and this is yet another area where biodigesters can help. This in-house equipment uses a minimal amount of energy in its clean decomposition processes.

Biodigesters are a quick and simple solution for government buildings making the move towards net-zero emissions. If you’re ready to take the next step, contact Power Knot today.