Livable Planet

Here's the Plan to Save 1.3 Billion Tons of Food That's Wasted Every Year

The Sustainable Development Goals have specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.Today we take a look at SDG #12, which rethinks how we monitor, regulate, use, and share important resources like energy, water, and fresh food.

by Katelyn Harrop
Sep 27 2017, 4:45pm

Photo via UN

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals are 17 encompassing objectives meant to address the world's most pressing health, educational, social and economic issues by 2030. This month, the UN General Assembly, as well as many of the governing bodies behind the UN's SDGs, will be convening and we'll be breaking down a goal a day.

SDG #12: Responsible Consumption and Production

As the global population grows, so does the strain on the planet's shrinking stock of natural resources. Healthy societies and economies require patterns of consumption and production, but it's up to us to make sure these systems are maintained through fair and sustainable practices.

Across the globe, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year, while almost 1 billion people go hungry, and humans continue to pollute drinkable water sources while more than 1 billion people live without clean water for drinking and cooking.

We need to rethink how we monitor, regulate, use, and share important resources like energy, water, and fresh food to achieve efficient consumption and production targets by 2030.


The U.S. is one of the top five creators of solid municipal waste, and a top global consumer across the board. The country is also a world leader in food waste, with one report from 2016 suggesting that half of all fresh food is thrown away across the country. Yet, 23.5 million people live in food deserts across the country and one in six face hunger. The U.S. is also a top 10 per capita user of electricity, and is second only to China in fresh water consumption.

Since the U.S. is also a leading producer in resource-intensive industries like agriculture, it's necessary to consider national policies that regulate waste and resource use to allow for a sustainable environmental and economic future.

The "You" Factor

If you consume, you almost definitely create waste. It's time to talk about sustainable approaches to both actions.


Feedback Global believes food waste is a symptom of a wider issue in the global food system, and they spearhead campaigns to fix this by building a "circular, stable, low-input food system," where food waste becomes a resource.

Feedback combines programs like their European Gleaning Network with research into the food supply chain to pursue a holistic approach to sustainable food production and consumption.

Sri Lankin-based International Water Management Institute supports sustainable and equitable water access for agriculture and household use in both a research and action capacity. The group also focused on reducing the impact of climate-shock and climate-related water crises including flooding and droughts.

At Home

Food Policy Action wants you to know about the environmental and social impact of food consumption and production at the policy level, and provides tools like policy tracking and state-level scorecards to make this important issue accessible. FPA also puts pressure on policymakers to make progressive and sustainable food policy decisions.

Food Recovery Network has grown into the largest national student movement against food waste, with 230 college-level chapters across the country. FRN fights to reduce food waste on university campuses by collecting food that would otherwise be wasted, and donating it to community members and organizations in need.

To learn more about the SDGs, head to the Goalkeepers site created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.