Scroll down to get an in-depth look at the human and environmental impacts of the food industry.


Food Waste During the Holidays

Food waste is a major issue within the United States. More than 70 billion pounds of food waste reaches landfills each year.The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food is one of the most common materials found in landfills, and is “third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States” (“Avoid Food Waste”). It is estimated that over 30% of the food grown is never even consumed. Data shows that households are a major source of food waste, and that household food waste increases by around 25% during the holidays (Pearson).

Here are a few things you can do to prevent food waste and help your community this holiday season.

  1. Donate unopened, non-perishable food items to a local charity.
  2. Utilize your freezer- it’s a great place to extend the life of extra food.
  3. Get creative with your leftovers.
  4. Check out this tool to help you plan your menu.
  5. Safely distribute leftovers to friends & family.

If you are experiencing food insecurity, visit UT Outpost, as they help students with food-related needs. For further assistance, please visit the Central Texas Food Bank and Feeding America.

Image Citations

Holiday Foods

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ailymeal.com/sites/default/files/2017/11/02/dreamstime_m.jpg. 

Holiday Pies

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Winter Cookies

http://www.wrl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Christmas_holidays_winter_cookies_desserts_baking_sweets.jpg.

Works Cited

“EPA Encourages Americans to Avoid Food Waste Over the Holidays.” EPA, 25 Nov. 2020, 

http://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-encourages-americans-avoid-food-waste-over-holidays. 

Food Waste & The Climate Crisis. 20 Nov. 2019, 

http://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/food-waste-climate-crisis. 

Pearson, Pete. “How to Reduce Food Waste This Holiday Season.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, 

http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/how-to-reduce-food-waste-this-holiday-season.


The Impact of the US Corn Industry

Corn is the number one crop produced in the United States. In 2019, 97.1 million acres of corn was planted. However, a small percentage of corn produced is consumed by humans (Flannery).

Around one third of the crop is used in feed for livestock. This number is dependent on supply and price of corn. Another one third of the crop is used for ethanol- which is often used as a biofuel additive for gasoline. The remaining one-third of the crop is processed for humans to eat (Capehart and Proper). Given the versatility of the crop, it is found in a wide range of foods: Cereal, chips, soda, and medicine are just a few examples of what corn is processed for.

Although corn produces a variety of products, there are critiques on the production system as a whole. The system is efficient in producing the crop and maintaining a steady price, but not efficient in feeding people. Corn is grown as a monoculture- the practice of repeatedly growing one crop on the same land. This form of intensive farming is known to deplete the land of its nutrients (Anderson). As a crop, corn requires high levels of water and fertilizer, which draws concern over the long-term future of this crop. (Hobson and Barton).

Want to learn more about corn and its relationship to the environment? Check out this podcast!

Image Citations

The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard. 23 Dec. 2004, 

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Fredmeyer_edit_1.jpg. 

Rolling Corn Fields at Harvest Time. 3 Oct. 2015, 

commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&limit=50&offset=0&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1&search=corn+fields+filetype%3Abitmap&advancedSearch-current={%22fields%22:{%22filetype%22:%22bitmap%22}}#/media/File:Corn_fields_Iowa.JPG. 

Works Cited

Anderson, Leigh, et al. “Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Technologies.” Evans School 

Policy Analysis and Research, University of Washington, 17 Mar. 2010.

Capehart, Tom, and Susan Proper. Corn Is America’s Largest Crop in 2019. 1 Aug. 

2019, http://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/07/29/corn-americas-largest-crop-2019.  

Flannery, Tim. “We’re Living on Corn!” Michael Pollan, 28 June 2007, 

michaelpollan.com/reviews/were-living-on-corn/.

Hobson, Jeremy, and Brooke Barton. “The Environmental Risks Of Corn Production.” Here and Now, National Public Radio, 11 June 2014.


History of Corn in the US

In 2019, over 90 million acres of corn were produced in the United States- around 69 million football fields. Unsurprisingly, corn is currently the number one crop grown in the United States (Capehart). Historic investment in agriculture and corn subsidies from the government have allowed large-scale production of corn, while keeping the corn prices low.

US government investment in farming can be traced to the early 1900s when looking at the modern history of US agriculture. In order to boost food production, the USDA invested heavily in irrigation projects, food transportation infrastructure, and dam construction (Plumer). However, corn production truly advanced when scientists created new strains of corn to produce higher yield and withstand extreme weather conditions.

Corn receives the highest amount of subsidies than any other crop (Federal Farm Subsidies). Subsidies are a way in which the government encourages farms to produce more of one product, regardless of their market price. The government then makes up the difference for any lost revenue. Subsidies ensure corn prices remain low and will remain consistent throughout the year, regardless of circumstances.

Image Citations

Corn Field in Cayce, Richland County, SC. 29 June 2020, 

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Corn_field_in_Cayce%2C_Richland_County%2C_SC.jpg. 

Corn Husks. 9 Sept. 2007, 

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Corn_husks_%281350123723%29.jpg. 

Fahler Corn Field. 4 Aug. 2019, 

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Falher_corn_field.jpg. 

Works Cited

Capehart, Tom, and Susan Proper. Corn Is America’s Largest Crop in 2019. 1 Aug. 

2019, http://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2019/07/29/corn-americas-largest-crop-2019.  

“Federal Farm Subsidies: What the Data Says.” USAFacts, USAFacts, 29 Sept. 2020, 

usafacts.org/articles/federal-farm-subsidies-what-data-says/. 

Flannery, Tim. “We’re Living on Corn!” Michael Pollan, 28 June 2007, 

michaelpollan.com/reviews/were-living-on-corn/.  

Plumer, Brad. A Brief History of U.S. Corn, in One Chart. 28 Apr. 2019, 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/08/16/a-brief-history-of-u-s-corn-in-one-chart/.


Milk and Environmental Impacts

Which milk is best for the environment?

Dairy: Dairy milk has the largest environmental impact when compared to non dairy milks. According to a 2018 study, dairy milk produces three times more carbon emissions compared to plant based milk. Furthermore, dairy milk requires nine square meters of land per liter produced.

Almond: In general, the production of almond milk produces less CO2 emissions than dairy, but requires more water compared to its non-dairy counterparts. The average almond requires around 12 liters of water to produce.

Fun fact! California is the world’s largest almond producer.

Soy: The environmental impact of soy milk is low compared to dairy. One liter of soy milk requires around 297 liters of water to produce, and emits around 0.975kg of CO2. However, soy milk uses more land than its non-dairy counterparts. 

Oat: Similar to soy milk, the environmental impact of oat milk is low compared to dairy. Oat milk production uses around 80% less land than dairy milk, and less water as well. One liter of oat milk emits around 0.9k of CO2.

Works Cited

Bogueva, Diana, and Dora Marinova. “Which ‘Milk’ Is Best for the Environment? We Compared Dairy, Nut, Soy, Hemp and Grain Milks.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 14 Oct. 2020, phys.org/news/2020-10-environment-dairy-nut-soy-hemp.html. 

Chavez, Veronica. “What’s Better For You and the Planet – Almond Milk or Cow’s Milk? Here Are the Facts.” One Green Planet, One Green Planet, 16 May 2019, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/whats-better-for-you-almond-or-dairy-milk/. 

Clingham-David, Jaia. “Which Non-Dairy Milk Is Best for the Environment?” One Green Planet, One Green Planet, 27 Oct. 2020, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/which-non-dairy-milk-is-best-for-the-environment/. 

Held, Lisa Elaine. “Which Plant-Based Milks Are Best for the Environment?” FoodPrint, 18 Feb. 2020, foodprint.org/blog/which-plant-based-milk-is-best-for-the-environment/. 

Oakes, Kelly. “Which Milk Alternative Should We Be Drinking?” BBC Future, BBC, 10 Feb. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200207-which-milk-alternative-should-we-be-drinking.


Chocolate Industry

You might be a chocoholic, but have you ever wondered how your chocolate gets made? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, but there are many steps from bean to bar.

The overall growing process often requires intense manual labor. Once the cocoa seeds are removed from the pod, they follow a long supply chain in which the beans move through intermediate sellers (Mussman). This process can be difficult for the farmers who often make less than $1/day. Because this work is their sole source of income, the farmers are largely powerless to fight the inhumane work conditions. Also, children often work alongside adults. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, children in cocoa farming communities lack access to education, must participate in unsafe tasks, and suffer frequent injuries (Cocoa Farming: An Overview).

You might be thinking, well, what can I do? As a consumer, you can make an impact like this:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Start a conversation to spread awareness of the issue.
  3. Learn your labels. “Fair trade” and “rainforest certified” are best for ethically produced chocolate. Click here to see certifications of different brands.

If you have the means, these simple steps help support a more sustainable future. Ultimately, more significant changes are necessary to deal with the systemic issues of cocoa production.

Additional Resources

Watch: Netflix Series Rotten Season 2 Episode 5, “Bitter Chocolate”

“The real story of chocolate is a supply chain where our affordable luxury is paid for in misery and exploitation.”

Rotten 2.05, Netflix

Read: 1) Cocoa Initiative 2) Slave Free Chocolate 3) The Big Business Of Chocolate 4) Fair Trade v. Rainforest Alliance

Works Cited

“Cocoa Farming: An Overview.” International Cocoa Initiative, cocoainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ECA_-_2011_-_Cocoa_Farming_an_overview.pdf. 

“FAQ: What Is the Difference Between Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade Certification?” Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Alliance, 4 Sept. 2020, http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/faqs/difference-between-rainforest-alliance-certified-fair-trade. 

Mussman, Jonathan. “Bitter Chocolate.” Rotten, Netflix, 4 Oct. 2019.