Are you an energy-efficient environmentalist who bikes to the farmers market emissions-free and lid-cooks local organic meals? Then I hope you’re eating all your food before it goes bad — or you could be wasting more energy than you’re saving.

The energy in the perfectly good food we throw away every year adds up to about 2 percent of annual energy consumption in the U.S., according to a study by the at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. That means “more energy is wasted in the perfectly edible food discarded by people in the U.S. each year than is available in oil and gas reserves off the nation’s coastlines” according to New Scientist, which reported on the study.

Vegetarians may be shocked to find out that wasted dairy products and produce waste are the biggest sources of energy loss — because a bigger percentage of these products are thrown out uneaten compared to other food categories!

Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the study adds up the energy costs of food production, transportation, processing, and handling, then figures out which portion of that energy went unused due to food waste. While the amount of energy lost in food waste is impressively large, that figure is still a conservative estimate because the researchers assumed only 27 percent of food got wasted — a 1995 USDA figure that’s likely to have since gone up. In addition, “further research is necessary to obtain more recent and accurate accounts of the energy used in fisheries, aquaculture, food packaging, disposal, and commercial food preparation,” write the researchers.

Shocked by the environmental impact of your food waste? MNN’s food blogger Robin Shreeves has 10 ways to curb your food waste. Eat more, waste less.

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