Unlocking the full economic and environmental benefits of waste reduction and resource efficiency in the food and drink supply chain requires a rapid transition to a more sustainable food system. More efficient production and wasting less will help, but we should also consider the sustainability of the food we eat, sell and serve.

Pulses, grains and vegetables require fewer resources and generate less greenhouse gas emissions than other food types, and are therefore cornerstones of sustainable eating.

Key points

  • Sustainable eating can work hand in hand with food waste prevention to reduce the impacts of food systems
  • Sustainable food choices can help deliver the Courtauld 2025 targets
  • Citizens, businesses and governments all have a role to play

It is widely agreed that our current food system is not sustainable if we continue with ‘business as usual’. Unchanged, the global food system is forecast to generate enough greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to heat our climate above 1.5°C.  Globally, producing food accounts for 70% of water use and causes 60% of deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Halving food waste in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 will make a huge difference to reducing this impact, and WRAP is at the forefront of international efforts to make this happen. But we can, and should go further, by making our food system more sustainable, and by making our food choices more sustainable and healthy.

In the UK it is estimated that if we all ate according to the Governments’ Eatwell Guide, this would result in a 32% reduction in the environmental footprint compared to the current diet. By eating sustainable food types that require fewer resources, the UK could substantially reduce its GHG emissions and help deliver industry targets under Courtauld 2025. To help encourage more sustainable eating and reduce the environmental impact of the food system, retailers, manufacturers and the hospitality and food service sector could offer food that helps us all eat more sustainably.

WRAP's work in this area looks at sustainable eating and reducing food waste, and demonstrates that real change can be delivered further and faster if a combined approach is taken. Supporting these findings, pilot studies were undertaken with community groups to explore food consumption and food waste generation in lower income groups. Also with citizens, WRAP explored the barriers for adopting a more sustainable diet, such as convenience and taste. And with the food industry, we show how food waste measurement could help policymakers, retailers and brands better understand food consumption and deliver more sustainable food choices.