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3 Surprising Foods That Aren’t as Planet-Friendly as You Think

Not all of our favorite 'green' foods are sustainable. Find out why!

Written by
Esther Abisola Omole

When we go to sit down for a meal, we're thinking about how mouth-watering the food looks—not what it took to get it on our plate.

While the environmental impact of meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products is pretty well known, it might surprise you that some plant-based options have quite the footprint, too.

No food (not even veggies!) is the epitome of planet-friendly. Everything we eat requires natural resources to grow, and even eco options have a hefty carbon footprint from being transported from the farm to your plate.

With that being said, it's always interesting to learn where different options rank on the sustainability scale. Some of which—like the below—may even surprise you.

Foods That Aren't as Eco-Friendly as You Think

1. Avocados

Avocados are the quintessential breakfast superfood in the United States, but their increasing popularity makes them a growing problem for the planet and people. An estimated 60 to 70 gallons of water is required just to harvest a single avocado. Yes, just one fruit.

There's also the matter of the food miles. Because avocados primarily come from Mexico, Peru, and Chile, the total mileage contribution to the world is 90,214,352 miles with the average distance being 4,676 miles.

2. Soybeans

Soybeans are a fan favorite for a variety of reasons. They are the basis of meatless substitutes like tofu, or

Soybeans require an extensive amount of cropland, meaning they contribute to deforestation as global demand increases—and it’s increasing a lot. Soybean production is now 13 times higher now than it was in the early 1960s, and has doubled since 2000. But, it's not all going where you think it is: 77% of the world’s soybean production is used to provide animal feed for meat and dairy production, and only 7% of soybeans become products you can consume.

In Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, this growing large-scale soy production has led to the displacement of small farmers and local communities in the region. Ecosystems with rich biodiversity in these regions are disappearing as well. In addition to deforestation, chemicals and fertilizers used to grow soy are a major source of nutrient pollution in lakes, rivers, and estuaries.

3. Bananas

You know bananas so well that you’ve probably never given their sustainability a second thought.

The fruit is one of the oldest cultivated plants and can be harvested year-round, meaning it's an important contributor to global food security. While the actual production of bananas doesn’t produce a significant carbon footprint, they have to be flown into the U.S. from tropical regions, emitting a great deal of CO2 in the process.

In addition, the fruit’s thicker peel means it necessitates a more intensive application of harmful pesticides. The banana industry uses more agrochemicals per hectare than any other crop. Because of that, it's a good idea to buy organic whenever you can.