The global fashion industry hit $ 1.5 trillion last year. That’s a lot of clothes that are made, bought and sold.
But much of it ends up being wasted in the cupboard and eventually thrown away. Unfortunately, that means a lot of clothes in the landfill.
Log in to StitchFix. The San Francisco-based company is known for helping customers find the right clothes, but what you may not know is how much this helps fight climate change.
StitchFix works completely online and on mobile devices. Their data scientists work with stylists and customers to match the right person to the right clothing article. That means less clothing, less storage, and less waste.
“I think especially in the garment or apparel industry, we understand that the most sustainable thing you can do is not make garments,” said Thomas Heckroth, director of responsible resources at StitchFix. “So we wanted to make sure we got the customers exactly the way they wanted and did it as efficiently as possible.”
It works on customers and on Wall Street. Publicly traded StitchFix has seen its market value grow by nearly 800% since March.
Meat production in the US has a significant carbon footprint, and a 2017 study showed that animal food is responsible for up to a quarter of it.
An article by The Breakthrough Institute in Oakland suggests the pet food carbon footprint may be increasing due to consumers’ propensity to buy more expensive food and more meat for dogs and cats.
Despite growing consumer preferences for grain-free foods high in meat protein sources that appeal to humans, UC Davis animal nutritionists say more conventional foods containing whole grains and animal by-products are healthy for pets to eat.
Three years ago, an adorable hunk of fur and mud stayed with Tatyana Vino at her home in San Francisco.
“He’s just the sweetest creature in the world,” he said.
She named him Chomsky.
But it wasn’t long before his new best friend – a pit bull, a golden retriever – began making regular trips to the vet. She suffers from skin allergies, and is constantly scratching her body. The vet prescribed Chomsky with steroids, but Vino wanted to find another solution, so he began to consider changing his diet.
“I started cooking for him, and he really likes it,” she said.
After adopting a second dog – a small chihuahua mix named Banksy – Vino has his own homemade dog food down to a science. She uses pressure cookers for meat, cooks vegetables on the stove, and adds eggs for extra protein.
“Most of the meat in this fridge belongs to them,” he said as he pulled out a large, still wrapped pork shoulder from the supermarket, and began to slice it up.
Chomsky and Banksy are definitely one of the luckiest dogs in the world, but they are not alone. Although most dogs do not get the pleasure of daily home food, many American pets eat more meat today, according to an article from The Breakthrough Institute, an environmental research center based in Oakland.
“We buy food for our pets which have more meat,” said Caroline Grunewald, the author of the article. “More meat, and higher quality – by human standards – cuts of meat.”
Grunewald focused his research on dry bagged dog food, and found that more expensive foods contained a higher percentage of protein – and also made the claim that the protein came from a human edible meat source, rather than so-called “pet grade” meat, which are often made from animals deemed unfit for human consumption.
“Which ultimately leads to more livestock production, so we can feed our pets,” said Grunewald.
Livestock is an important part of the carbon footprint of agriculture, Grunewald said, and animals such as cattle that produce lots of methane are considered the worst offenders. In his article, he quoted a 2017 study published by Gregory Okin who tried to quantify the portion of the impact caused by pet food.
While Grunewald suggests some of Okinawa’s calculations may be overestimating, the study says that animal feed may be responsible for more than a quarter of the total carbon impact of US livestock, or 64 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The Okinawa study further estimated that the US produced about 30% of the world’s pet food, including a large amount exported to Asian countries.
“Of course, increasing the sustainability of pet food production in the US could have a significant global impact,” said Grunewald.
Despite the images of finely layered food and lean meat on pet food packaging, industry insiders point out that the reality is much different. They argue that what is actually in the bag consists of meat that humans are not interested in buying – at least, American humans.
“It would be ridiculous for them to use a cut of meat that we would use in the human market,” said Lindsay Meyers, who develops the product at Fairfield-based. Primal Pet Food. “There’s not enough supply.”
“You see a bag of kibble and you see a New York filet or strip in that bag, that’s just direct marketing,” adds Primal Pet Foods founder Matt Koss. “We know for sure that the supplier of the product does not sell the product to the pet food market.”
However, Primal Pet Foods, which makes high-end freeze-dried and freeze-dried treats for dogs and cats, stick to meat that the US Department of Agriculture considers edible for humans. They only use cuts that you won’t find on menus at steakhouses.
“You can use all parts of the animal,” said Meyers. “For dogs and cats, the difference between filet mignon and liver … The heart is more nutritious.”
Primal is a member of The Pet Sustainability Coalition, which is looking for ways to reduce industry’s impact on the climate. Minimizing transport emissions by using meat near the source is another topic of discussion for them, as is moving towards more environmentally friendly packaging.
But just as important as the packaging material is what is printed on the outside of the packaging.
“It’s becoming more complex and crazier and more expensive,” says Michelle Newburgh of dog food options at her local pet store.
“In one bag there is a picture of a farm, in the other bag a pack of wolves,” said Alex Newburgh, her husband.
Grunewald found that the marketing of higher priced packaged pet food falls into two basic categories: bags with wolves and wild lynx on them, and bags with a well-coated food image, or the ingredients from which they are made.
“It depends on how we view our pets: are they wild, or are they furry babies?” he says.
Whatever is out there, he found, the contents of the more expensive pouches are largely the same: more meat than reasonably priced meals, and more claims that food contains no ingredients such as whole grains or animal by-products.
“There is a lot of fear and misconception about what byproducts are,” said Jennifer Larsen, clinical nutritionist at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “Often times, it’s organs and stuff, and maybe most people don’t eat liver and onions for dinner anymore like they did 50 years ago.”
Larsen added, consumers started avoiding byproducts and seeds after a 2007 withdrawals from pet food found to be contaminated with melamine. In the internet-fueled panic that followed, he said, grain and by-products emerged as enemies, even though they weren’t really bad for pets.
“Maybe the consumer’s perception of them is that they are less desirable,” he said. “And any time you have a consumer preference, you’ll have a company that will meet that need.”
For the sake of saving the planet, Grunewald’s first recommendation was a simple, though perhaps counterintuitive one: Buy cheaper pet food – including foods that contain whole grains, by-products, and less meat overall. Larsen recommends sticking to big, established brands.
“Every pet owner can actually reduce their pet’s carbon footprint simply by changing the type of mass-produced pet food they buy at the grocery store,” said Grunewald.
And while some pets have strong preferences for the types of protein they eat, he suggests that if it is possible to switch, chicken-based foods are likely to have a much lower environmental impact than those made with beef or lamb.
He also suggested the pet food industry could do its part by developing clearer labels around sustainability, perhaps with a “seal” or certification as other industries have done.
For those who cook for their pets, Larsen recommends not overloading them with meat, and also adding eggs as a more economical and environmentally friendly source of protein. She often works with clients who wish to design nutrition programs for their pets – a phenomenon she says is more common in California than in many other parts of the state.
Tatyana Vino says there’s no turning back now: Chomsky’s allergies are getting a lot better, and Banksy won’t even see dry food anymore.
But for his neighbor who just wanted to get his dog excited about kibble again, he launched a new business, Pet Kitchen. She’s made her favorite pet recipe a sauce that can be poured over dry pet food – and, at times, enjoyed by humans too.
“I tasted everything they ate,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s better than my dinner!”
Throwing out leftovers is not just wasting food. Experts say it destroys the planet. But even though the problem is huge, fixing it can be simple.
The United States is a global leader on a number of issues, but sadly, food waste is one of them.
“The food wasted from the United States is equivalent to how much greenhouse gas 37 million cars make,” said Saloni Shah, a food and agriculture analyst at the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland.
Each year, Americans waste 30 to 40% of their food supply. The amount of food wasted could fill 730 soccer fields, according to Shah.
“If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after the US and China,” said Shah.
Shah explained that most of the food is wasted at home, but is also wasted on farms, in grocery stores and in restaurants.
No matter where it happens, Shah says it ends up in landfills and rot.
The rotting food sends methane gas into the air. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and much worse for global warming and the environment.
“Food waste is very bad for the climate and also a huge waste of water,” said Shah.
Food waste is not just about food. All the resources used to grow and produce it were also wasted.
“If you throw an apple, it’s like pouring 25 gallons of water down the drain,” Shah said. “And the average American does this 17 times a year.”
A Bay Area grocery delivery company called Imperfect Foods sells food to customers that grocery stores don’t want because it doesn’t look pretty or the packaging isn’t right.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but grocery stores have very rigid aesthetic or beauty standards for what they will buy and what they won’t,” said Reilly Brock, associate creative director at Imperfect Foods.
This can be an asymmetrical carrot or a lemon that is a few millimeters too large or too small.
“There’s nothing wrong with the food,” said Brock. “It looks a little different. Ironically, anyone who owns a garden or says has lemon trees growing, they will recognize our food because our food looks like what you might find at a farmers market or market in your own backyard garden.”
Companies can ship to about 80% of the US population. People can check if it is offered in their area by visiting the company website.
Meanwhile, here are some other solutions to the problem of food waste recommended by the Breakthrough Institute:
Make a grocery list and stick to it so you don’t buy more than you’re going to eat
Store one portion in your refrigerator for food that will spoil faster so you will eat it first
Freeze food to make it last longer
Compost at home
Making compost at home is like throwing more than 11,000 cars off the road by simply putting food scraps in the trash, not dumping the trash or in the trash.