This Is How Bad Your Avocado Obsession Is for the World
Feel bad, millennial. Not only have you caused the housing crisis with your avocado obsession, you've also harmed Mother Nature.
Photo: Jake Smallwood
"Oh FFS" is a column where I pick out all the stuff you love most in life and look at how it's destroying the planet. Enjoy!
What is it? Avocados.
What's that? The cause of the UK housing crisis.
Is it biodegradable? Yes, extremely.
So how bad is the problem?
A short list of stuff millennials should not be allowed access to, according to the generation that bought their four-bed homes for £40,000 three decades ago: living rooms, safe spaces, meat and, famously, all the £5 avocado toast we're obsessed with haemorrhaging our pay cheques on. That's the real reason none of us can afford to buy houses, not the inflated price of property and our tiny little meagre salaries!
Anyway, turns out avocados aren't just bad for our bank balances, but also the world we live in.
"The environmental impacts from avocados come from the energy, water, fertiliser and pesticide required to grow them, the resources used for packaging materials and the energy used in processing, transporting and keeping them cool to preserve their freshness," explains Tom Cumberlege, Associate Director of corporate carbon measuring company Carbon Trust. "Some of the biggest markets for avocados are where they aren't grow, like the UK, northern Europe and Canada. As a result, they have to be imported from all around the world. As a general rule, the further away they are eaten from where they are grown, the bigger the environmental impact."
Well, shit. So should we just stop eating them altogether? Swap them out of our diets for something a little more sustainable?
"The carbon footprint of an avocado can depend quite a lot on how it was grown and how far it has been transported," says Tom. "But this is all relative – it can be several times higher than the footprint of a carrot, onion or broccoli, but significantly better than out-of-season asparagus that has been air freighted from the southern hemisphere to Europe."
Okay – but that's it, right? It's just the flying of avocados all over the world that's damaging the environment?
Nope: "Avocados differ from other fruits and vegetables in that they are a particularly thirsty crop, and they are often grown in regions that face water scarcity," Tom continues. "To put that into context, avocados require around twice the amount of water as growing a similar weight of oranges. Global production is growing rapidly to meet demand, doubling over the past two decades, which in some regions has been linked to deforestation and environmental degradation of land."
He adds: "In places like California and Mexico's growing regions we are already seeing issues for avocado crops caused by droughts and heatwaves, of the kind we would expect to see more of as climate change impacts hit."
What's the solution?
Some good news: avocados are still one of the better food options from an environmentally friendly point of view.
"Most plant-based foods will, in the majority of cases, be better for the environment than those derived from animals, so avocados will tend to have a lower carbon footprint than eggs, if you are putting something on toast in the morning," explains Tom, "and it can be under half the footprint of bacon for similar amounts."
So that's good news. But how can we make avocados more eco-friendly?
"There is quite a lot that farmers can do to grow crops in a more sustainable way, such as minimising fertiliser, pesticide and water use as far as possible by using it with greater precision and adopting modern agricultural technology to improve efficiency and reduce emissions," says Tom. "One obvious example would be using solar-powered pumps to irrigate fields, rather than powering them with diesel generators."
And what about your regular avocado-eating millennial, who probably works in the creative industries and doesn't get into work before 11AM every day?
"From a consumer perspective, once you've bought an avocado, the best thing you can do is make sure that it doesn't go to waste," says Tom. "There are a number of ways to slow this process, for example the use of lemon or lime juice in guacamole, but avocados will not last days in the fridge after they have been prepared, so should be enjoyed sooner rather than later."
For some tips on how to put those avocados to good use, check out all these lovely recipes on Munchies.