Is that avocado brunch worth it? The carbon cost of your food

The appetite for the ‘Instagrammable brunch’ has influenced a rise in the popularity of the avocado. Just by looking at the numbers on social media it’s easy to understand the scale of how obsessed the world is with the consumption of avocados. 

The simple hashtag ‘#avocado’ has been used a staggering 9.9 million times and the brunch favourite ‘#avocadotoast’ has been used 1.2 million times – both of these on Instagram alone. This trendy fruit has been the centrepiece of many brunches all across the world. Whether it’s smashed and topping a toasted slice of sourdough, accompanied by eggs, smoked salmon or bacon, or even dressed with a scattering of chilli flakes, its appeal is undeniable.

Avocados have been big news for a few years now, with Australian millionaire Tim Gurnereven suggesting that millennials weren’t able to afford their own homes because they eat avocado toast.

What are the worries surrounding avocados?

It doesn’t only look great in an Instagram post showing off its hues of green, avocado is also incredibly good for you. The superfood offers up countless health benefits, including alleviating stress and lowering cholesterol – but what about the impact of these viridescent gems of health on the environment?

While avocados do remain a trendy food choice, questions of how ethical or ‘green’ it is to consume them have been increasing. Research highlighted in the Evening Standardin 2017 revealed that eating avocados has a carbon footprint five times higher than eating a banana.

The truth is, the demand for the fruit comes from countries where it isn’t even grown. However, due to this demand, they’re available all year round, meaning the carbon footprint of avocados is inevitably high. They originate from and are mainly grown in Mexico, the USA and Spain, but they’re most in demand in places like the UK and Europe. Do we think enough about where our food comes from before it lands in our fridge?

It would appear some are beginning to, as worries about the impact of avocado production have even prompted some businesses to take it off the menu. Wild Strawberry Cafe based on Peterley Manor Farm just north of High Wycombe announced to its followers on Instagramthat it would no longer be supplying avocados. 

What is avocado production causing?

Sadly, because we enjoy avocados so much, it’s causing drought and deforestation elsewhere. The carbon cost of avocados is unsurprisingly high when you consider the way in which they’re farmed. Lots of energy, water, fertiliser and pesticides are used to grow them, plus plastic packaging and transportation methods are used to keep them cool in transit. 

The amount of water needed to produce avocados is causing huge problems to the local communities. It is said that a staggering two thousand litres of waterare required to produce one kilo of avocados. The thirst of the avocado tree is leaving locals without water and facing all the problems associated with drought.

Another of the sad realities of the increased worldwide demand is that locals in Mexico can no longer afford to buy something grown on their doorstep. 

Not only this, but the transportation itself causes worries for the environmentally aware. Increasingly, food miles are being discussed in the conversation surrounding climate change. It doesn’t take a great deal of working out that using aeroplanes to transport food isn’t ideal when it comes to carbon emissions.

When it comes to the deforestation aspect of this puzzle, it’s becoming an increasing concern. It’s been said that deforestation in Mexico has been instigated by drug cartels who have realised the value of exporting avocados. Pine trees are being illegally cut down to make way for avocado plantations.

There are even suggestions avocados aren’t actually vegan because of migratory beekeeping used in their production. However, people following a vegan lifestyle can probably take this suggestion with a pinch of salt, as migratory beekeeping is often used in the production of many other plants.

Among the myriad of worries surrounding avocado production is the positive news that there are actually other foods with much higher carbon footprints, such as meat, farmed salmon and eggs. Despite this, it’s clear that avocados cause an undeniable ethical problem when it comes to the environment. 

For some people, the health benefits of an avocado may outweigh the problems associated with its carbon footprint. However, it’s important to be aware of the impact our choices have on the environment – cutting down consumption of avocados and ensuring none of the delicious flesh goes to waste are both important places to start.

One Comment

  1. I think that there are other kind of foods, much more problematic when it comes to ethical choices, like meat. I’m not talking about the killing of the animals, but about environmental issues, like land clearing for growing GMO soy to feed cattle and other livestock. Of course, we should all be aware of how our choices have an impact and not waste food.

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