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 renowned 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.
Table of Contents
- 10 Facts Why Avocados are Bad for the Environment
- 1: You need 2000 liters of water to produce one kilo of avocados
- 2: Avocado farms are located in tropical areas with high temperatures
- 3: The avocado is used as a discussion weapon for meat-eaters
- 4: It takes two months from harvesting to eating
- 5: Cafés ban avocados from their menus
- 6: Mexico got an avocado police
- 7: Expiration date isn’t very long
- 8: They’re all wrapped into plastic
- 9: It takes 10 years for an avocado tree to produce its first fruit
- 10. Very low level of pesticides
- Conclusion: Should we stop eat avocados?
10 Facts Why Avocados are Bad for the Environment
These facts highlight the environmental damages caused by the production of Avocados:
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 “not so fun fact” any value at all.
|Fruit||Water usage to produce 1 kilogram|
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 often do not go hand-in-hand.
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 numerous social and environmental problems:
“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.“The Guardian
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?”.*
(Which, by the way, is true. You can read more about the environmental impact of the meat industry here.)
Meat-eaters sometimes respond with: “Well, do you eat avocados? They are just as bad!”
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:
Avocados need to be stored in a fridge at between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius. Think about the energy consumption! Shipping fruits with boats or airplanes to the other side of the planet leaves a heavy carbon footprint, too.
5: Cafés ban avocados from their menus
„Sorry, no Avocados.“
This is what you’ll probably hear if you order an avocado sandwich in Wild Strawberry Café in the UK.
According to the press, the café 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. But it’s an interesting fact nevertheless.
6: Mexico got an 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? Think again.
Avocados overripe rapidly, 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.
How long do various fruits last (without cooling)?
- Avocados: 3-4 days
- Bananas: 3-7 days
- Tomatoes: 1 week (Yes, they’re fruits, too!)
- Oranges: 2-3 weeks
- Lemons: 2-4 weeks
- Apples: 3-4 weeks
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.
Here’s an example: An avocado that I bought in my local supermarket in Oslo, Norway.
The packaging label 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 (Coriander) 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 happy if you chose to share this article with some of your friends or family members.
12 thoughts on “10 Bizarre Facts that Describe the Environmental Impact of Avocados”
Only some avocado plants take 10 years to produce fruit. It’s typically 4-6 years.
Another positive about the avocado is that as long as it is left on tree, it doesn’t ripen. This means that the grower only has to pick what can actually be used or sold minimising waste. Compare this to other produce which ripens on the plant, pushing products onto the market even if the demand is not there.
Interesting views. Not sure where you got the 10 years to first fruit production – would be about right if you planted the trees from seed. However, commercial farms plant grafted and/or clonal trees. Both types give some production in the second year (depending on growing conditions) but generally from year 3 onwards you are starting to get reasonable yields …..
It’s always the same. Anything I ever like is either bad for me or something else..
It’s not fair.
Great article! I wrote a school thesis about the environmental impact of avocados – and you have a lot of great points! 🙂
I did enjoy the discussion with Piers Morgan and that “green party woman”. He is obviously making a good point: why are vegans pretending to care about the environment, but at the same time eating avocados?
That doesn’t make sense in my head.
As if corpse crunchers like you don’t eat avocado or bananas or other foods that have a high impact, and answering a question with a question is not a answer but a deflection.
There are organic farms in California that are better to buy from with less impact.
But this does not take away from the fact raising animals for murder is horrible and this violence has got to stop
Damn, I had no idea that avocados were so bad for the planet.
Do you know any other fruit that’s the same or even worse??
I love guacamole but might consider dropping it for the next taco dinner now
great question. To my knowledge, there isn’t anything as bad as avocado. On the flip side, there are many ways to measure how “bad” a fruit is from an environmental perspective. E.g.:
1. Is it the fruit that has the shortest expiry date? So it ends up being food waste all the time.
2. Is it the one that can only be grown far away from its biggest market? For example, the avocado is grown in South America, but consumed mainly in America, Asia and Europe.
3. Is it the fruit that requires the most water to grow?
You see, there are too many factors to consider.
Avocados are not eco-friendly at all.
I have actually stopped eating them – and would almost demand all of my “eco friendly friends” to do the same. Extinction Rebellion is a group I don’t understand. They spend an awful lot of time to stop the public transportation system in large European cities, but have no interest in stopping the avocado production in South America. I guess they dont dare.
Avocado lover. I love avocados, but I know that their environmental impact is tough.
Water Intensive. The soil here is rich in volcanic ash and together with the climate has made Michoacán an ideal place to grow velvety avocado. But the progress of the green gold also has a downside. Many want a share of the gain, and the number of avocado plantations has exploded. Although no land use permits were granted during the 2000s, forests are being cut down at a rapid rate to be replaced by avocado trees.
In the past you only saw wooded mountainsides around the small town of Zirahuén. Now many of them have been replaced by dotted grids, and the city’s water source is drying out for ever-longer periods.
Let me try to help you out to make this article a bit better.
11. Many restaurants (especially Mexican) have to throw out their guacamole because they put cilantro in it.
Most people HATE cilantro (it tastes like soap) and therefore, by putting coriander in guacamole, they create food waste.
12. Avocado trees are famous for destroying the soil their are planted on.
Most of the soil that were avocado farms in the past are no longer used by farmers. It has to be completely redone in order to grow vegetables or fruit again.
Haha, I couldn’t agree more with the cilantro thing.
Going to a Mexican restaurant is a struggle. I do like guacamole, but I alwasy have to ask whether or not they put the “devils herb” into it. 😉
Avocado Production is horrible for the environment. Everyone knows it, but guacamole is too tasty to leave.
In my local Subway, the cashier will ask “do you want guacamole” before you pay… because it’s more pricy than all the other vegetables. And thats good. It should be an environmental tax on avocados.
Sustainable production and water consumption are important for avocados and our customers. We therefore work closely with manufacturers that can best manage production, and implement measures and methods to use as little water as possible.
the areas we buy avocados from in Chile minimize water consumption using energy and water-efficient equipment, and the producers have used drip irrigation that adds water directly to the trees, which in turn minimizes evaporation and unnecessary consumption. The system consists of water sensors that can control the needs of every tree and can be remotely controlled,