ELENA BELAVINA: In this paper, I looked at how number of grocery stores in the city impact how much food waste is produced in the market.
First of all, we waste a lot of food. About 1/3 of everything that we grow just ends up never eaten, never touched, thrown away. And it's a huge amount of emissions associated with all that food that we are producing. All the machinery that goes in it, water, fertilizer, et cetera, et cetera, deforestation, all of that creates a huge amount of emissions. So by the time it just leaves the factory, already 80% of emissions are embedded.
Another big factor that we don't think about is the way we dispose of this food. When it goes to the landfill, no air can access inside most of that food. And instead of CO2, methane actually ends up being produced. And as far as global warming is concerned, methane is about 20 to 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
What we find is the more stores you have, the lower food waste is going to be. And the main driver for this is households. So we, at home, throw away 10 times more food than the grocery stores. So what happens when you have many grocery stores is that you end up going to the store more often. It's closer to you so you end up going to the store more often. And as a result, you're buying less.
What was interesting to me as a result of the study was that very small increases in store density can have very high impact. For example, in Chicago, which is a very representative city, a very small increase in store density, just three to four additional stores per 10 square kilometers, which is a very large area, could lead to about 6% to 9% reduction in food waste and to about 1% to 4% decrease in grocery costs for households. So it's a big win for environment and a big win for consumers.
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A new study by Elena Belavina, associate professor at the School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, finds that in most cities, a small increase in the number of grocery stores would result in less wasted food, a significant contributor to climate change.