New Toolkit Helps Cities Address Climate Change & Food Waste Simultaneously

August 2021

(Washington, D.C.): Throughout the United States, our towns and cities are on the front lines when it comes to addressing food waste and climate change. Recognizing the link between these two challenges, the Environmental Law Institute has released a new report that will help towns and cities address these challenges simultaneously—in their climate action plans.

In 2019, 35% of food in the United States was wasted, contributing to 4% of all U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Meanwhile, cities are already experiencing the effects of climate change and preparing for increased natural disasters, depleted resources, and sea-level rise, among other stresses. Rising to the challenge, cities across the country have pledged to reduce GHG emissions and develop climate action plans that outline the measures they will use to achieve mitigation goals. These plans offer an ideal opportunity for cities to adopt food waste-related actions.

“As the entities primarily responsible for managing waste and safeguarding public health, including ensuring that low-income communities and communities of color do not bear disproportionate burdens, cities are well situated to leverage their on-the-ground expertise and local policymaking authorities to simultaneously address climate change, food security, waste reduction, and environmental justice,” explained Linda Breggin, Senior Attorney and Director of ELI’s Center for State, Tribal, and Local Environmental Programs.

The report, A Toolkit for Incorporating Food Waste in Municipal Climate Action Plans, includes model provisions that municipalities can use to incorporate food waste measures into their municipal climate action plans. The toolkit provides an easily accessible menu of options that include measures to prevent food waste, rescue surplus food, and recycle food scraps. The toolkit stems from ELI’s Food Waste Initiative, which conducts research and works with stakeholders to prevent food waste, increase surplus food donation, and recycle the remaining food scraps.

“Municipalities around the country are missing an important opportunity to address food waste in their climate action plans,” added Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This new report helps resource-strapped cities by providing a menu of food waste reduction measures to pick from as they develop or update their climate change mitigation and adaptation plans.” 

Relatedly, ELI’s Food Waste Initiative recently worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council to create a Model Compost Procurement Policy to help municipalities encourage or require the use of compost products. As with the Toolkit, the policy is easily adaptable for individual municipalities. The policy includes commentary for cities to better understand the benefits of key provisions and alternative approaches, as well as links to examples—all of which are intended to help guide stakeholders and policymakers in tailoring the policy to the unique circumstances of their region. An “off-the-shelf” model policy or template without commentaries is also available.

For more information, visit ELI’s Food Waste Initiative website at

Linda Breggin is available for interview.