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Unlocking the Power of AI: How ChatGPT Can Revolutionize the Fight Against Food Waste

The statistics are alarming, with food waste being responsible for a larger greenhouse emissions footprint than major industries such as the airline industry, plastics production, and oil extraction.

Lisa Pereira
Lisa Pereira

According to the World Resources Institute and the UNEP Food Waste Index, “Global food waste has a bigger greenhouse emissions footprint than the entire airline industry, global plastics production, and global oil extraction. Food waste is responsible for up to 11.8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.” (1)

It has been estimated that if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. (2)

One-third of all food produced in the world goes to waste. That’s 1.3 billion tons of food being wasted each year. This not only represents a major economic loss, but it also has a significant impact on the environment. Food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and wastes valuable resources such as water and energy.

Advances in technology can now use artificial intelligence to help reduce food waste and protect the environment. One tool that can be particularly useful in this regard is ChatGPT, a language model developed by OpenAI.

Strategies to reduce food waste with AI

ChatGPT is a powerful tool that can help us better understand the causes of food waste and develop strategies to reduce it. ChatGPT can be used to tackle this important issue by:

1.Educating consumers

One of the biggest causes of food waste is consumer behavior. Many people throw away food that is still edible simply because they are not sure how to use it or how long it will last. ChatGPT can be used to provide consumers with information about food storage, shelf life, and recipes that can help them use up ingredients that might otherwise go to waste. By providing consumers with this information, we can help them make more informed decisions and reduce food waste.

2. Optimizing the supply chain

Another major cause of food waste is inefficiencies in the supply chain. ChatGPT can be used to analyze data about food production, transportation, and distribution to identify areas where waste can be reduced. For example, the model can help identify the optimal temperature and humidity conditions for storing certain types of food or suggest ways to streamline the distribution process to minimize food spoilage.

3. Supporting food recovery programs

ChatGPT can also support food recovery programs that collect surplus food from restaurants and grocery stores and distribute it to those in need. The model can help identify sources of surplus food and suggest ways to distribute it efficiently to food banks and other organizations that help feed the hungry.

4. Developing sustainable food systems

ChatGPT can be used to support the development of sustainable food systems. By analyzing data about food production and consumption patterns, the model can help identify ways to produce food more sustainably, reduce food waste, and promote a more circular economy.

What can we do individually?

There are a lot of reasons why people waste food. Every household and individual is different, but research tells us that a lot of our day-to-day choices, from shopping and cooking habits to how we manage our food storage and leftovers, all play a role in how much food we waste. Demographics and lifestyle factors also influence those food choices and habits.

Two of the most common reasons why people end up throwing away food is that they either bought too much food or they made too much and couldn’t use it all before it spoiled. (3) Two of the most common categories of wasted food are produce (fruits and vegetables) and leftovers from previous meals.

Outside of just writing a list individually, we can use ChatGPT to help us plan our meals and use our leftovers creatively. ChatGPT can be a valuable tool in the fight against food waste. By planning your meals in advance, using leftovers, storing food properly, and composting food scraps, you can reduce the amount of food you waste at home.

ChatGPT as a resource

Breaking this down even more, let’s look at how we can use ChatGPT as a resource for figuring out how to use certain vegetables and food in your home. Whether you have an abundance of produce from your garden or you're looking for creative ways to use up ingredients that are about to expire, ChatGPT can help.

Here are some ways ChatGPT can assist you in using certain vegetables and food in your home:

Ingredient Substitutions

1.If you have an ingredient you don't know how to use, ChatGPT can provide you with suggestions for substitutions. For example, if you have a surplus of zucchini, ChatGPT can suggest recipes that use zucchini to replace other vegetables or ingredients.

Recipe Ideas

2. ChatGPT can provide you with recipe ideas that use specific vegetables or ingredients. For example, if you have a bunch of carrots and are unsure what to do with them, ChatGPT can suggest recipes that use carrots as the main ingredient, such as carrot soup, roasted carrots, or carrot cake.

Cooking Techniques

3. ChatGPT can provide information on how to cook specific vegetables or ingredients. For example, if you're unsure how to cook a certain type of vegetable, such as eggplant, ChatGPT can suggest cooking techniques like grilling, roasting, or sautéing.

Pairing Suggestions

4. ChatGPT can suggest pairing ideas for certain vegetables or ingredients. For example, if you have a bunch of tomatoes and are unsure what to do with them, ChatGPT can suggest pairing ideas, such as using them in a Caprese salad or making a tomato-based pasta sauce.

Food Substitutions, Allergies, etc.

5. If you have a friend coming over for a meal and know they are allergic to a specific item, you can ask ChatGPT for menu suggestions. Whether it’s a dairy allergy, gluten sensitivity, diabetes, or simply if one wants a vegetarian or vegan option, you can ask ChatGPT to give you some suggestions with the items you have at home for the specific diet you are looking for.  

ChatGPT 4 can now process images

Here’s a tweet by Sudharshan, who had ChatGPT 4 analyze what was in his refrigerator and come up with some recipes. This is fantastic, especially since bread, fruit, and vegetables are most often thrown out.


In conclusion, the issue of food waste is a significant global concern that demands urgent attention. The tremendous amount of food wasted annually severely impacts the environment and the economy. However, with technological advancements such as ChatGPT, we possess a powerful tool to tackle this problem head-on. By leveraging ChatGPT's capabilities, we can educate individuals about proper food storage, extend shelf life, and discover creative recipes, all of which contribute to reducing food waste at the individual level.

Moreover, ChatGPT can play a crucial role in optimizing the supply chain by analyzing data and identifying areas where waste can be minimized during production, transportation, and distribution. It can also aid food recovery programs by identifying surplus food sources and suggesting efficient distribution methods to address hunger. Additionally, ChatGPT's ability to analyze production and consumption patterns holds great potential for developing sustainable food systems. By promoting sustainable practices, minimizing waste, and fostering a circular economy, we can collectively work towards a future where food waste is minimized.

By incorporating ChatGPT's suggestions into our cooking routines and meal planning, we can make a tangible impact on reducing food waste at home. ChatGPT's vast knowledge and suggestions can help us make the most of leftovers and find innovative ways to utilize specific ingredients. Together, by harnessing the power of technology and our own individual actions, we have the opportunity to create a world where food waste is minimized, valuable resources are conserved, and a sustainable future is realized. Let us embrace this invaluable resource and work towards building a more environmentally conscious society.


(1) UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021

(2) Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources

(3) City of Edmonton Food Waste Research Review FINAL REPORT


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Oakes, Kelly. 2020. “How cutting your food waste can help the climate.” BBC.

“The problem of food waste.” n.d. Change for Climate. Accessed April 20, 2023.

“Reduced Food Waste.” n.d. Project Drawdown. Accessed April 20, 2023.

Ritchie, Hannah. 2020. “Food waste is responsible for 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions.” Our World in Data.

“Sustainability Pathways: Food loss and waste.” n.d. Food and Agriculture Organization. Accessed April 19, 2023.

“The Top Food Loss and Waste Statistics of 2022.” 2021. PostHarvest.

“UN: 17% of all food available at consumer levels is wasted.” 2021. UNEP.

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Lisa’s MTP is leveraging innovation for equity, so all voices are heard. Senior Editor at OpenExO & working on the Exponential Organizations Book series. Worked at SU & Stanford. ASNE Reynolds Fellow.