Avocados are among some of the trendiest fruits to hit the market right now, especially given the rise of plant-based diets and avocado toast. But there’s more to avocados than what meets the eye.
In this episode of Good Together, we discuss how our love for avocados might be less planet-friendly than we think. Here’s everything you should know about the environmental impact of avocados.
Food Miles and Avocados
First, avocados contribute a total of 71,236,878 food miles to the world. Food miles refer to how and how far food is transported. They play a big role in determining a product’s overall carbon footprint.
Avocados are a plant-based food, which is often comparatively better for the environment than an animal-based food. Transportation can heavily skew, diminish, or increase a food’s total carbon footprint, even if its production footprint is lower.
Avocados have a particularly high carbon footprint: two avocados were found to release 846.36g of CO2 emissions in 2017. The food is produced in tropical climates, but eaten in a multitude of countries around the world. To satisfy our stomachs, food mileage rises.
Avocado Consumption Worldwide: The Numbers
Avocados need to be stored at a particular temperature, requiring lots of energy. Additionally, the cultivation process for avocados is very demanding.
The consumer obsession with this green fruit has unleashed a sort of chaos in Mexico. To put numbers to words, the consumption of U.S. avocados per capita has tripled from 2001 to 2018, where it now stands at roughly 8 pounds per person.
11 billion pounds of avocados are eaten every year around the globe, and demand has begun to reach markets everywhere. Avocado consumption has been shown to spike around the Super Bowl, which makes up for a grand total of 7% of the nation’s annual avocado intake.
Unfortunately, this huge demand for Mexico’s so-called “green gold” is leading to deforestation, with forests being burned and cleared to make room for avocado crops. This has an adverse effect on biodiversity.
Avocado trees also need lots of light, making taller trees a victim of their steady world conquest. Moreover, Greenpeace Mexico added to the avocado environmental list of burdens presented above. They pointed out the alarming amount of wood the fruit needs in its packaging and shipping.
Avocados and Their Thirst Problem
Plus, avocados require significant amounts of water to be produced, with a total global water footprint of 1800 ㎥/ton in 2010. In 2020, this has resulted in 9.5 billion liters of water being used to produce avocados on the daily.
In fact, just in the Mexican Mihoacán state, the source of half of global avocados, “3,800 Olympic swimming pools worth of water” are used every day on avocado farms. This large extraction of water contributes to increased earthquakes stemming from soil degradation.
Long-Term Production Costs
Thus, although it is true that the booming avocado industry in Mexico has opened the door to employment and prosperity among aspiring and practicing farmers, the environmental cost of avocado production is not to be dismissed. Rising avocado prices do have downsides.
Furthermore, even though the majority of avocados eaten in the U.S. are imported, California is home to over 3,000 avocado producers, although the climate crisis is starting to leave its mark in many California farms. The state’s soils are feeling the avocado drought as well.
Some Plausible Solutions to the Avocado Crisis
How can we resolve this avocado crisis? Well, firstly, farmers could minimize the number of soil treatments they use by producing avocado crops in a more precise manner. Farmers could also begin to implement “solar-powered pumps to irrigate fields, rather than powering them with diesel generators.” Renewable energy is always a step in the right direction.
Another trick consumers can implement is to keep their freshly bought avocados out of the waste bin. That means learning how to store avocados properly, which could make them last up to three months.
Some cafés are even going as far as to ban the notorious green superfood, instead choosing to opt for local alternatives. Lastly, one other popular call to action is to dress the avocados with an international certification indicating that they were sustainably produced.
Advocates also want Mexico to tighten its deforestation laws as this “green gold” reeled in $2.4 billion dollars for the country in 2018. A simple solution you can do right now is moderate your intake of avocados and shop organic!
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