The science between energy efficiency and food waste | United Technologies | John Mandyck

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The climate change or the climate crisis is rapidly getting worse and the need to reduce energy consumption has begun to spark global interest. While there are numerous ways to conserve energy, many have overlooked the importance of food waste disposal. The prevention of food waste can be positioned not only as a good way for consumers to save money, but also reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a massive scale.

To understand more about this, John Mandyck, Chief Sustainability Officer of United Technologies Corporation, talks exclusively with AsiaGreenBuildings to explore the hidden connection between energy efficiency and food waste.

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Your book, Food Foolish, explores the hidden connection between food waste, hunger and climate change. How does energy efficiency relate to food?

One third or more of all food grown and produced is never consumed. Eliminating that food waste and addressing climate change are intricately connected. When food is thrown out, the energy used to grow, harvest, process and transport it is also wasted. There is also a release of embodied carbon dioxide (CO2). In fact, if you measured food waste as a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases – 4.4 billion metric tons.

Energy efficiency is an integral part of the equation. When food is wasted, so is the effort and energy used to produce it – the fuel for tractors used for planting and harvest, electricity for water pumps in the field, the power for processing and packaging facilities, and more. In order to make a dent in the production of CO2 by food waste worldwide, we have to reduce the waste and increase the efficiency of energy used at every level.

My company has a unique insight into our global food system because we make the refrigeration systems that keep food fresh when it’s transported on the road or ocean, and when it’s displayed in supermarkets. United Technologies has also been active in the energy efficiency movement for decades, especially for residential and commercial buildings with energy-saving elevators plus heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems. Sitting in both worlds made me realize there’s a lot we can learn from energy efficiency when we think about our food.

We’ve become very energy efficient in the last 20 years by basically spreading the same amount of power across a growing society and economy without having to build new power plants and deal with the associated environmental emissions.

Like energy, we need to efficiently spread the food we already grow across more people without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Food conservation must be every bit as important as energy conservation. We need a new paradigm. We need the Age of Food Efficiency where we waste less to feed more with big dividends to the environment.

How do sustaining cold chains work in mitigating loss of perishable food traveling across long destinations?

One of the biggest factors in food waste is the underdevelopment of the cold chain. Two thirds of all losses occur at the production and distribution level. Refrigeration is the best technology to ensure food safety and prolong shelf life but only 10% of global perishable foods are refrigerated. If we can sustainably grow the cold chain, we can reduce food waste and feed a growing population.

For example, Carrier, a United Technologies company, provides transport refrigeration systems for use over land (road and rail) and by sea, as well stationary systems for supermarkets. Today, we offer solutions that allow for precise control of temperature and humidity, preserving all types of perishable cargo. At the same time, we’ve advanced environmental technologies, such as the use of CO2 as a natural refrigerant, which can reduce the carbon footprint of marine container refrigeration by 28% compared with previous systems.

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About John Mandyck

John Mandyck serves as Chief Sustainability Officer for United Technologies Corporation. A global leader in the aerospace, food refrigeration and commercial building industries, United Technologies provides high-technology systems and services that set the standard for performance, reliability and energy efficiency, with well-known global brands such as Pratt & Whitney, UTC Aerospace Systems, Carrier and Otis. John is the co-author of the book Food Foolish, which explores the hidden connection between food waste, hunger and climate change. He has presented energy efficiency, sustainability and future of food strategies to audiences around the globe. He blogs on sustainability issues at SustainabilityView.com and can be found on Twitter @JohnMandyck.

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