Preventing food from being wasted is one of the easiest and most powerful actions you can take to save money and reduce your climate change footprint by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and conserving natural resources. However, my research shows that it depends on several factors, a topic highlighted in other studies on the general environmental impacts of diets. Junk food almost always consumes more energy, but land and water use vary from product to product. Work in this area continues to evolve.
In fact, ultra-processed foods can also contribute to reducing these emissions. The most sustainable way to consume food is to produce only what we eat. Ultra-processed foods can help with this, since they're made to last longer in our cupboards, thanks to ingredients that are added to extend shelf life, so we're less likely to waste them. Encouraging dietary changes to avoid junk food is a challenge because of its low cost, taste and convenience.
While carefully selected taxes and food subsidies, as well as better labeling and restrictions on junk food advertising, can help reduce consumption, these consumer-oriented measures are only part of the solution. However, this variability should not cause junk food to be released, especially given its contribution to obesity. While the topic of sustainable diets is increasingly popular, the debate and proposed policies have not sufficiently questioned the proliferation of junk food products that use scarce resources to produce empty calories.