Plantd Sustainability Editor
With avocados a viral favorite amongst the plant-based, particularly our Plantd Community, we have been called to write on the sustainability of avocado farming. First, the smashed avocado brunch trend was blamed by leading Australian economists for millennials being unable to enter the housing market (psst, it has nothing to do with exponential house price growth and stagnant incomes), and now they are being called out as being unsustainable. The last thing that we want to do is to ostracize an incredibly healthy stone fruit. However, we will aim to discuss the genuine concern that surrounds the environmental impact of Avo’s – we’re sure they won’t mind if we call them that – and explore how we can continue to source and enjoy an eco-friendly, avo-world.
But Avo’s Are Plants!
Avocados are grown on trees in tropical climates and are known to be an incredibly healthful fruit for the human body, known for its healthy fats, vitamins and mineral compounds. The unfortunate dichotomy is that sadly, studies have shown that in order to grow especially to meet current demands, the now mass-scale agriculture of avocados has unfriendly effects on the environment. Firstly, due to the demand and land required, it is reportedly contributing to deforestation across the globe, as well as being thirsty for immense quantities of water. As it is a climate dependant fruit, it tends to be transported long distances, which we know of course, contributes to additional greenhouse gas emissions. As the fruit grows and the single style of crop depletes the soil by extracting healthy mineral qualities, it leaves farmers reliant on unhealthy pesticides and chemical fertilisers, contaminating our precious soil. Such contamination threatens the biodiversity of our ecosystem, such as the decline of monarch butterflies that is evident in Mexico, and impacts human health alike.
Where Do They Grow?
In the United States (US) alone, it is predicted that 2.4 million tonnes of avocados were consumed in 2018, with historical high amounts consumed over the last decade. The most part of this supply travels over the border from Mexico. It is estimated that of the 5.7 million tonnes of avocados produced in 2016, using 564 thousand hectares of land, 37 percent were transported to feed the US. Researchers have written on the potential contribution to the social issues of relying on Mexico to feed our avocado addiction. Another 1 million ton was transported from The Dominican Republic and Peru, followed by Colombia, Indonesia, Brazil, and Kenya. The US is the 6th largest global producer, 90 percent of which is grown in California. Yet, Spain is the biggest European avocado producer.
Why is Deforestation a Problem?
Although we undeniably need a myriad of solutions implemented simultaneously and immediately to address the issue of climate change, including transitioning to renewable energy on a global scale and mainstream adoption of a primarily plant-based diet, experts are now hedging their bets on addressing deforestation by reforesting our planet as a simple and realistic solution to combat climate change. To this end, they have mapped out reforestation opportunities globally. Conversational International report that the world has lost almost half of its forests for agriculture, development and resource extraction. Whilst we are wondering how on earth this could have happened when we know that humans and the ecosystem cannot survive without forests, we now need to protect what we still have and ensure that the rapid and widespread dissemination of reforesting education and practices occur.
What About Greenhouse Gases?
From growing, transporting, shopping and processes involved in ensuring freshness of the fruit in transit, estimates suggest that avocados contribute double the carbon dioxide compared to bananas, and up to forty times more than tea and coffee. As the management of carbon dioxide is an imminent issue requiring urgent attention, mitigating our impact is essential. If you’re unfamiliar with why carbon dioxide is problematic for our atmosphere, you can visually see how it accelerates climate change in this visual image on the NASA Global Climate Time Machine. You may notice the simultaneous increases in carbon dioxide and global rising temperatures. At this point, not only do we need to stop all carbon emissions in order to reach our climate management goals as per the Paris agreement, but we need to actually remove it from the atmosphere, which is no small task as it relies on progressive technologies and mass investment. Given negligent policies and poor leadership is one major reason why we are in this mess, we are not overly confident that those in power will invest enough to get us out of it. So carbon is no small or simple issue, and we must all now be aware of it.
Suggested Solutions For Avo Lovers
- Learn to grow your own avocados if your climate allows. Check out a step-by-step guide here. It looks like a fun scientific experiment to include the kids in too. There are so many benefits to teaching kids to grow their own food, such as practical skills, the importance of sustainable farming, and at the same time, they can learn to appreciate the process of delayed gratification.
- Know where your avocados are coming from and shop as local as possible! The less transportation, the better. The fresher, the better. Start with your local and organic farmers market. Shopping organic will help to maintain the health of our soil and therefore, our ecosystem.
- Enjoy in moderation and ensure that no avocados go to waste! This may mean giving the guac a miss and opting for a tomato-based salsa, particularly if you’ve already enjoyed a smashed avo that day. You can cut down on quantity without reducing flavor, such as experimenting with a new combination for your avo-toast, or considering a different satisfying option, such as nut butter on toast, topped with banana and cinnamon.
- Offset the impact of deforestation by getting involved in reforestation. Get involved in planting endeavours in your local community. As we have essential reforestation goals globally, you can get your hands dirty and plant, or you can simply donate to have trees planted on your behalf, at a very small expense. Check out this Plant A Billion Trees Initiative.
Where Does This Leave Us?
Our community loves all the avo’s and all the avo recipes. We will continue to share these mindfully, and encourage you to consider how you can implement the previously mentioned steps to reduce your avocado footprint. This may start with sharing one with dinner instead of one per family member, which automatically reduces your impact by 75 percent. We will continue to experiment with new recipes and brunch smashes too – have you tried smashed pumpkin and nut feta, hummus and smashed chickpeas, or our home-made favourite, smashed peas and mint?! There are so many options where we can have the similar brunch feels by mixing it up. We do not want you to think that we are the avo-fun-police, because we’re in the same boat too. Let’s just do our best together and keep the conversation flowing, shall we?
The Plantd Challenge
We challenge our community to share some avo-free recipes, with the same heartiness and satiety. Is it really possible – let’s find out.