Think back to lunch. Did you finish everything on your plate? If you did, bravo! If you didn’t, did your food end up in the trash can? It’s okay if you answered yes – we’re all guilty of it. But according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, our wasteful habits are having a pretty staggering effect on the climate.

According to the study, up to 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided if we more efficiently managed food use and distribution. “Agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20 percent of overall global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010,” said co-author Prajal Pradhan, according to the Guardian. “Avoiding food loss and waste would, therefore, avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.”

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The report states, “Avoiding food loss and waste may counteract the increasing food demand and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector. This is crucial because of limited options available to increase food production. In the year 2010, food availability was 20 percent higher than was required on a global scale.”

In other words, we’re wasting energy producing food that never even makes it to our plates. In fact, it’s estimated that one-third of all food produced worldwide goes to waste. That’s a whole lot of resources used just to put something in the garbage can, isn’t it? Not to mention it’s hurting our wallets, too –  $1 trillion worth of waste is generated every year. And if you aren’t convinced food waste is a MAJOR problem yet, consider this: in the U.S., organic food waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions. Methane has a global warming potential 20 times higher than carbon dioxide.

It’s up to individuals, companies, and governments to work together to make sure food waste is a thing of the past. Science is telling us that the time to act is now. We’ve got nothing to lose.

You’re convinced you’ve gotta stop wasting food! What can you do?

We might not all have the power to influence policy, but we can all combat food waste with our daily actions. Just check out these six ways you can cut down on food waste, ten ideas to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle, and these simple ways to minimize waste in cooking. If you can’t stop waste at the source, you can always try composting! Check out this guide to composting 101 to get started. Together we can keep more food out of landfills – a win for people, animals, and the planet all around!

Image Source: Patrick Feller/Flickr