I recently spent hours to look into the environmental impact of avocados.
Because I’ve heard from some friends in Mexico that behind the tasteful and “trendy” fruit, there’s hidden a dark side. I have already written a long article about the social problems connected with avocado farming. That got a lot of attention – and was even linked to by huge newspapers around the world.
Now that I have been looking into the environmental issues connected with avocados, I am prepared to give you some useful insights.
In a hurry? Here’s the list
1. It takes 2000 liters of water to produce 1-kilo avocados.
2. Avocado farmers steal freshwater from towns and cities nearby.
3. Meat eaters often claim that “vegans who eat avocados are hypocrites”.
4. It takes two months for avocados from being harvested in South America to be eaten in Europe.
5. Cafes in Europe are already banning avocados from their menu.
6. Mexico has their own “avocado police” to control the market.
7. Avocados have to be consumed within three days.
8. Near 100 % of all avocado companies use plastic to wrap their product.
9. It takes 10 years for an avocado tree to produce its first fruit.
10. There are almost no pesticides used on avocado farms.
If you are intrigued to learn more, I will recommend you to keep reading (or scroll down to the fact you found interesting. Frankly, I think you should read them all. 🙂
Top 10 interesting facts to why avocado is a huge environmental issue
1. You need 2000 liters of water to produce one kilo of avocados
Let’s compare avocado to other types of fruit to give that “fun fact” any value at all.
|Fruit||Water usage to make 1 kilo|
In other words, no other normal fruit comes anywhere close to the same water demand as avocados.
2. Avocado farms are located in tropical areas with high temperatures
If the avocado production was located in areas with a lot of natural rain, it wouldn’t be much of a problem. Thinking back at my study year in Bergen (240 rain days per year), I was thinking that this must be the perfect place to put your avocado farm.
Unfortunately, avocados also require a lot of heat. High temperatures and unlimited access to freshwater do NOT go hand-in-hand.
The solution? Stealing freshwater from normal people!
Therefore, Mexican avocado farmers have been caught stealing fresh water from nearby towns and cities to keep up with production. According to this article from The Guardian, that causes a lot of environmental problems.
Quote: “many avocado plantations install illegal pipes and wells in order to divert water from rivers to irrigate their crops. As a result, villagers say rivers have dried up and groundwater levels have fallen, causing a regional drought. ”
3. The avocado is used as a discussion weapon for meat-eaters
That title might not give any meaning. Let me put it into context.
When vegans desperately attempt to win debates against meat-eaters, the carbon footprint of the meat industry comes up as an argument. You often hear vegans say something like: “are you aware that the meat industry counts for 15-20 % of the total CO2 emissions?”.*
Meat-eaters sometimes respond with: “Well, do you eat avocados? They are just as bad!”
*= Which, by the way, is true. If you want to know more about the environmental impact of the meat industry, I will recommend reading this article after you’ve done reading about avocados. 🙂
Example of such an argument
Piers Morgan used that exact argument during a debate about a “red meat tax” on a British Morning show. Three minutes out in this video, he asks the infamous avocado question:
4. It takes two months from harvesting to eating
Today, there’s some guy called Carlos who picks down avocados from some tree on a farm in Chile. Fast forward 60 days and a hipster called Tom will order that exact avocado on a trendy cafe in central London.
What happens in between those two actions will have a huge impact on the environment.
1. Avocados need to be stored in a fridge at between 4 and 8 degrees celcius. Energy consumption.
2. Shipping fruits with boats or airplanes to the other side of the planet leaves a heavy carbon footprint.
5. “Oh, so you want avocado in this cafe? Nope. Sorry!”
This is what you’ll probably hear if you order an avocado sandwich in Wild Strawberry Cafe in the UK.
According to The Independent, the cafe owner refuses to serve avocados due to their high environmental footprint. The owner knows that it’s an unpopular statement, but defends the choice by saying that “this is something we have thought long and hard about”.
Is this just the beginning of the end for avocados? 🙂
…(I don’t think so).
6. Mexico got their own avocado police
I have heard about animal police. But a police force that dedicates their working hours to regulate the avocado industry?
That seems a bit weird. However, this video from BBC features the security issues that’s connected with running an avocado farm in South America:
And before you complain in the comment section: this DOES have something to do with the environment. Forcing police officers to drive around in the woods on large trucks is not very eco-friendly.
7. Expiration date isn’t very long
Thinking about buying a lot of avocados for next weeks’ party?
Avocados overripe very quickly, which is why people often talk about “the perfect time to eat them”. Having them stored for more than three days might be an issue. Storing avocados for more than a week IS DEFINITELY an issue.
Various fruit and their “expiration time”
Avocados: 3 days
Bananas: 3 days
Apples: 7 days
Grapes: 7-10 days
Oranges: Forever. 🙂
8. They’re all wrapped into plastic
Have you ever seen avocado being sold in the supermarket without plastic wrapped around it?
I haven’t. And I have lived in four different countries over the last ten years.
There is no official number online about how much of the avocados that are wrapped into plastic. But based on what I have seen while walking around in various shops, you barely find plastic-free avocado packaging.
Example: avocado that I bought in my local supermarket in Oslo, Norway
It says “ready to eat” on the packaging. But I guess I have to remove all that plastic first? 🙂
9. It takes 10 years for an avocado tree to produce its first fruit.
You read that right. Most people are not aware, but avocado farms take AGES before they are ready to produce anything.
In other words: for more than 10 years, they are just taking up a lot of useful space that could be used to produce other types of fruit and vegetables. This is one of the reasons why avocado farmers are threatened by the mafia.
The threshold for starting some avocado production facilities is just too high.
10. Very low level of pesticides
Let’s end this list with some positivity, shall we?
A study published on Healthline looked into various types of vegetables and fruits to determine their pesticide level. In the bottom of the scale, the scientists mapped out a group of fruits called “the clean 15”. This list contains the 15 types of fruit that have the LOWEST levels of pesticides.
Avocados were one of them.
Conclusion: Should we stop eat avocados?
That’s up to you.
For me personally, I have reduced my avocado intake with about 80 % over the last year. There are many other fruits and vegetables that I can use in my salad to make it tasty. Also, Mexican restaurants tend to use cilantro in guacamole these days – which disqualifies me to buy it.
At least you are now aware of how big of an environmental problem the avocado industry is. I would be very happy if you chose to share this article with some of your friends or family members. That would mean a lot to me. 🙂
Infographic: the environmental impact of avocado
I thought it would be nice to end this article with a nice-looking picture. This is my very first (and possibly last) attempt to create an infographic (so be nice to me in the comment section):
PS! Feel free to put this infographic on Pinterest, your own website, your presentation or whatever…but make sure to put a link back to this website as a source. 🙂 Thanks in advance!