If there’s one vital, but underappreciated, subject in the conversation about climate change, it’s waste: how to define it, how to create less of it, how to deal with it without adding more pollution to the planet or the atmosphere.
But experts say these aren’t necessarily the biggest problems. Reducing the damage from waste might require expanding the traditional definition of waste — not just as old-fashioned garbage, but as a result of wild inefficiency in all kinds of systems, which often results in emissions of greenhouse gases, among other problems.
Companies and organizations around the world are taking on the challenge. Some are using materials traditionally considered waste and making them into something entirely new — and often unrelated — to their original purpose.
Others are avoiding the creation of waste through greater efficiency and new technologies. Here are three examples of efforts underway:
A British company trying to revolutionize the animal feed industry
When Keiran Whitaker was working as a scuba diving instructor, witnessing the destruction of tropical rain forests, often because of industrial food production, he decided he needed to put his environmental design degree to good use.
“We’re obliterating our natural ecosystems predominantly to produce monocrops that go into the industrial food web, and what’s bad on land is even worse underwater,” he said, referring to the destruction of rain forests and the bleaching of coral reefs.
According to a 2013 study from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, just under 40 percent of global crop calories are used to feed animals, most of them from corn and soybeans grown at an industrial scale. It’s a particularly inefficient way to feed people: It takes about 100 calories of grain to produce just three calories’ worth of beef, or 12 of chicken.
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