Carbon Footprint of Avocado vs 73 Other Foods (Avocado Offset Calculator)

Woman looks at an avocado seed growing into a tree and being waters while a carbon footprint cloud hovers above and she wonders about the carbon footprint of avocado products being shipped around the world.

Although recently classed as a superfood, the carbon footprint of avocado vs 73 other foods shows that this delicious nutritional source can be a big problem for the planet.

There can be no denying that the benefits of eating avocados are numerous and jam-packed, as each fruit is with vitamins and minerals, healthy fats and fiber, and a hidden superpower that helps to battle certain types of cancer and reduce inflammation.

Unfortunately, even though it is nutritionally beneficial to the earth’s population, it is leaving behind a carbon footprint.

Use this avocado offset calculator to find out how big.

The good news is that you can offset the emissions of your avocados with tree planting programs, like an avocado fixation carbon offset. Keep reading to learn more about how avocados compare with other foods in emissions generation.

Why Do Avocados Have a High Carbon Footprint?

Many people wonder why do avocados have such a high carbon footprint? The answer is distance and water. Avocados grow in tropical conditions such as Central America, Africa, Mexico, and California.

That means transporting to other countries either by boat or by road which is going to entail a lot of driving as the ripening fruit is delivered throughout America and around the world.

But what about the production of avocados in California?

This state supplies 10% of all the avocados in the United States. But in 1997 a ban on avocado imports from Mexico was lifted, and since then 80% of all imports of avocados are from there.

With the increase in popularity of this fruit, hundreds of trucks are now thundering up and down the interstates across the country, leaving behind a carbon footprint of an avocado that is gradually getting bigger.

Avocado Carbon Footprint (Carbon Footprint of an Avocado)

Avocados need to be harvested before they are ripened as after about 7 -10 days they will start to spoil. To delay the fruit from becoming overripe, they need to be transported in refrigerated trucks to extend their shelf life.

Harvesting avocados in an avocado orchard.

(Image: HONG SON9)

This energy-intensive form of transport elevates the size of the carbon footprint to almost twice the amount of some other popular fruits like bananas at nearly 850 grams.

This creates a level of greenhouse gas emissions and an environmental impact that is out of proportion to the avocados sitting in your local grocery store.1

But compared to other products, are avocados the worst offenders?

Related Reading: Why Is Almond Milk Bad for the Environment? Dairy Comparison (Worse)

Carbon Footprint of Avocado vs 73 Other Foods

Climate change is being accelerated by current farming and transport methods. Some foods are less damaging than others compared to the carbon footprint of avocados, while others have just as bad a reputation.

Fruit stand in a market with avocados and other fruits.

(Image: Muhammad-taha Ibrahim10)

The production of animal products in the food supply sector contributes heavily towards the 13 billion metric tons of CO2 emitted around the globe each year. Identifying where the worst offenders are is an important step in the direction of solving the GHG emissions problem.

Avocado CO2 Emissions Per Kg (Avocado Carbon Footprint Comparison)

Several factors that contribute to the high level of carbon dioxide emitted from avocados are the acres of land required to cultivate a profitable crop, the quantity of water used in the process, packaging, and the distance the produce has to be transported to the consumer.

Topshot of ripe avocados with one cut in half.

(Image: Eddie Pipocas11)

The size of the CO2 emissions increases in line with the popularity of the avocado as worldwide demand grows. More land is being cleared to grow more crops, and that requires more water and more transportation.

From the Mexican city of Michoacán, over 135,000 tons of avocados are exported to the United States in just over a month by road and by sea.

The CO2e emissions at about 1.071 per kilogram equivalent may not sound alarming, but on a yearly basis for an industry that sells 11 billion pounds per year, that carbon footprint of an avocado soon adds up.

Several studies have calculated the CO2e/kg generated by the following products and compared them to the 1.071 CO2e for avocados transported from Mexico to the UK, for example.

ProductCO2e/kgProductCO2e/kg
Oranges0.695Milk1.692
Tomatoes1.295Eggs2.607
Strawberries1.524Butter11.248
Pineapples0.617Yogurt1.657
Grapes0.664Cream5.091
Bananas0.991Margarine2.533
Kiwi0.730Cream cheese6.537
Apricots0.811Coconut milk1.356
Mango1.156Almond milk1.289
Lemons0.693Cheese9.072
Pumpkins0.032Potatoes0.360
Blueberries1.280Rice2.430
Pears0.543Onions0.464
Grapefruit1.122Mushrooms2.708
Plums0.507Carrots0.305
Melons1.205Cucumber1.403
Passion fruit0.847Walnuts2.268
Zucchini1.77Broccoli1.113
Pomegranate0.390Bell pepper1.232
Peaches0.519Bread0.979
Pork6.978Lettuce1.019
Lamb23.615Cauliflower0.647
Sausages7.879Peas0.523
Salmon3.899Spinach0.413
Cod fillet6.404Olive oil4.166
Mackerel2.420Sugar1.036
Mussels0.248Cabbage0.360
Trout4.939Peanuts2.535
Tuna3.873Almonds3.109
Shrimp5.400Cashew nuts2.831
Soybean oil7.280Palm oil7.610
Crustaceans11.85Coffee16.480
Dark chocolate18.68Chicken3.200
Turkey7.390Beef27.983
Peanut butter2.500Cane sugar3.000
Prawns4.070Tofu0.080
Legumes0.500Brussel Sprouts0.260

Related Reading: Air Freight vs Sea Freight Carbon Footprint (The Real Numbers in 2022)

Avocado Carbon Footprint Per Kg

The avocado farming practices in Mexico alone are colossal, with over 500,000 acres of land used exclusively for avocado tree. These mega-farms generate incredible levels of greenhouse gas emissions due to the methods utilized.

Plastic crate full of harvested avocados.

(Image: Suraphat Nuea-on12)

And the land expansion is only getting worse as the worldwide consumption of avocados explodes.

Large tracts of forest land are being cleared, not just by logging but in the worst way imaginable.

To overcome a Mexican law to change the designation of acres of forest land so it can be reclassified as agricultural, trees are being cleared by burning them down to the stumps.

These blatant deforestation actions contribute adversely to the per-kilogram carbon footprint of an avocado and climate change, with over 20,000 acres of forest trees being cleared away regularly to make way for avocado orchards, either by illegal logging or by being razed to the ground.

The immediate environmental impact from this is obvious, but other problems are that pine trees capture four times as much carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming than avocado trees and five times less water.2

Carbon Footprint of Avocado in UK and Avocado Food Miles

Avocados do not grow outside in the UK, preferring to be hot and sweaty rather than cold and frostbitten. Yet, strangely enough, the main hub for buying avocados for the European market is based in the Netherlands.

This is not because the Dutch have discovered a revolutionary method of farming avocados in their often wintry climate, but because they have developed an efficient system for ripening, packaging, and the timely delivery of this product.

Although the initial distance between the UK and the Netherlands is not that great, the logistics required to deliver the avocados throughout the country contribute towards the carbon footprint.

Carbon Footprint Chicken (Chicken Carbon Footprint Per Kg)

Chicken is one of the most popular foods. The carbon footprint, chicken produce is at 3.2 kg CO2e.

Large chicken coop with some eggs and chickens eating feed.

(Image: Artem Beliaikin13)

Because chickens are reared mostly in the country where they are consumed, the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions are generated mainly from the commercial farming process itself.

This can include transportation, packaging, and even energy consumption, but compared to beef, the climate impact is not as severe.

Carbon Footprint of Meat and Fish

It has been proven that rearing animals for human consumption is one of the primary contributors to greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

Fish and red meat on chopping boards with some veggies and fruits.

(Image: Ronit HaNegby14)

Industrial-scale farming of cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens produces a large carbon footprint due to methane and nitrous oxide emissions, the process of feeding, tending to the animals and transporting them to market.6

With fishing, the size of the carbon footprint is determined by such factors as fuel with large commercial fishing vessels traveling further offshore for bigger catches. The carbon impact is less than for meat but delivery to customers far away from processing centers is still an issue.

So, compared to meat, fish tend to have a lower carbon footprint but that level could be significantly reduced if the fish are caught and eaten locally.

Planes, Trains, and the Carbon Footprint of Avocado vs 73 Other Foods (Avocado Offset Calculator)

Even with a tarnished reputation, the humble avocado remains irresistible, possible because of its smooth creamy taste and its diminutive size in comparison to say, an elephant.

Weight for weight how many avocados would be needed to equal the same amount of carbon emissions?

The carbon footprint of two avocados is rated at 850 grams.3

Carbon FootprintCO2e per 1,000 KmEquivalent Weight in AvocadosNumber of Avocados
Carbon footprint of a car251g62.5 Kilograms125
Carbon footprint of a bus58g14.5 Kilograms29
Carbon footprint of a train14g3.5 Kilograms7
Carbon footprint of a plane flight448g112.0 Kilograms224

Water Requirements of Avocado vs Beef Carbon Footprint (Carbon Footprint of Beef)

Avocado trees need lots of space to grow.

A minimum distance between each plant of 8-10 meters is needed and it can take up to 10 years before the plants start to bear fruit. For that unproductive period, they require lots and lots and lots of water.

Areal shot of an Avocado farm with a small struck with two passengers checking water irrigation system.

(Image: USDAgov|Lance Cheung15)

The water expenditure per avocado has been calculated at 60 gallons. To grow just one avocado, that’s a lot.

The water expenditure for a cow starts at 9 gallons a day but can increase to as much as 30 gallons.

If the water requirement was calculated by weight for weight, then the astronomical amount of water needed for the equivalent avocados would be more evident.

Avocado vs Beef Water: Why Is the Avocado Water Footprint So High?

To bring avocados to harvest regularly and to meet demand, in the state of Mihoacán in Mexico alone, on a daily basis, the equivalent of over 3,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools is used.

Globally, nearly 10 billion liters of water are wasted every single day.

The meat carbon footprint is one of the highest contributors to CO2 emissions. For example, rearing beef is worse for water consumption and the environment. To produce just 1 kg of beef takes between 5000-20,000 of water compared to 500-4,000 liters for 1 kg of avocados.

Avocado Production: Water Footprint and Socio-Economic Implications

There can be no denying that intensive avocado practices in some parts of the world are having negative environmental and societal impacts.

In the pursuit of profits, huge swathes of land are being cleared away with endemic wildlife displaced in the process, and local communities suffering under water scarcity and economic conditions.

Areas of the equivalent size of 196,000 football fields in Michoacán in Mexico have been made available for this very lucrative crop. With US consumers so close, the export market to them is growing yearly.

And with it, more deforestation, increasing usage of water, and greater reliance on jobs in the local economy that is increasing the carbon footprint of an avocado.

A local worker can earn more working on an avocado plantation than growing local crops. Unsurprisingly, this has led to even more land being given over to avocado farming, sometimes illegally sold to corporations, often farmed by individuals.

This lucrative industry turns over more than $2.5 billion a year, and any local economy can quickly become dependent on the jobs created in the region.

Even more concerning is the nearly 10 billion liters of water used on a daily basis, precious water that is being extracted from aquifers, crucial underground sources of water needed for local crops.

The unintended consequences of the depletion of these water sources are earth tremors and a reduction in other food sources that communities have been cultivating for decades.

Abandoning these local food-producing farms for a greater income from cultivating avocados creates a dependency that unscrupulous plantation owners are taking advantage of in the drive to maximize profits.

Under these circumstances, it can be very easy to turn a blind eye to the environmental impact and reap the monetary benefits now while the ever-increasing demand is there.

Avocado Sustainability, Avocado Ethical Issues, and the Avocado Environmental Impact vs Meat

Are mass-scale avocado orchards sustainable?4

Everything on the planet is a finite resource, meaning there will come a period in time when all the available agricultural land will be allocated, all the local water sources will be squeezed dry, and the climate will be choked with greenhouse gases.

Many problems encountered with growing avocados on an industrial scale are:

  • Over time minerals can be depleted from the soil making it less fertile
  • The use of fertilizers and pesticides can contaminate the surrounding eco-system
  • Surrounding shrubs and small trees are cleared to allow for more sunlight penetration
  • Water consumption can become problematic for local communities
  • Continuous deforestation can lead to soil erosion
  • The clearing of acres of trees reduces carbon dioxide absorption
  • Frequent earth tremors occur because of the depletion of underground aquifers.7

In areas where drought is a concern, continuous land expansion with increasing demands for more water is not a farming method that is sustainable over the long term and can affect the lives of thousands of local inhabitants.

There will come a time when the ethical use of this type of mass farming will be scrutinized, as was the case with palm oil. And although the local workers earn more than other jobs in these areas, they are still being exploited with bad working conditions.

The product may well be in high demand but the trade-off between the environmental damage caused may be too high for either the land or the workers to endure for too much longer.

Despite the growing carbon footprint of an avocado, meat production is causing an even greater environmental disaster as more meat is being consumed every year.

The solution is to eat less of everything, which itself is unsustainable, or find an alternative solution to offset climate change.

How Bad Is the Avocado Environmental Impact? (Avocado Deforestation)

Unsurprisingly, local farmers in the countries where avocados are grown, are eager to take advantage of the worldwide demand and have very little regard for the environment. They slash and burn vast tracts of natural land to expand the plantations to create additional space for new trees with no thought to the carbon footprint of an avocado.

Deforestation is caused by the drive for increased crop production. Additionally, this causes climate change, the extinction of indigenous animals and plants, and a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The destruction of trees also contributes to soil erosion, which can result in mudslides, flooding, and other hazardous situations.

Why Do Avocados Need So Much Water? What Is the Avocado Water Footprint?

The fault lies with the shallow root system.

For a tree that can grow up to 60 feet, the roots are only 6-8 inches below the topsoil and are unable to absorb sufficient amounts of water from the surrounding dirt. Constant watering is required to prevent the roots from drying out, and a valuable crop from dying.

This creates a large water footprint and in countries like Chile, it takes over 320 liters of water just to grow one avocado.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Imported Food?

If it was possible for each household to grow or rear every food source, there is no doubt that the worldwide carbon footprint would be reduced.8 That, unfortunately, is impractical, as not even every country can supply all the food requirements for its population.

Importing food is the only other option. The method of transportation, the distance, and the frequency impacts the climate.

Some products create a greater carbon footprint because of their short shelf life, or because they are extremely popular, and are therefore shipped more frequently.

Why Are Avocados Bad for You?

Hailed for their numerous nutritional benefits, avocados are actually quite high in calories, calories that are concealed within every mouthful of toast smeared with a generous topping of guacamole.

In moderation, they are rich in fiber, monounsaturated fats, and vitamins.

But not many people stick to the daily recommended amount of just a third of fruit, and it’s very easy to eat too much of a good thing.

There’s nothing worse than wondering where those extra pounds have come from while inadvertently sabotaging a healthy, calorie-controlled diet with another serving of a not-too-healthy avocado.

Eating Two Avocados Is as Bad as Driving a VW Polo for a Year

The carbon footprint for producing two avocados is disproportionately high for just two small fruits. Although not as damaging to the climate as driving a VW Polo for a year, greenhouse gas emissions are impacting the planet negatively.

This is because avocados do tend to travel thousands of miles after being grown under high water-intensive farming conditions, leaving behind a big carbon footprint that just seems to be getting bigger every year.

An industry that annually is worth nearly $6 billion is going to be hard to reduce as long as there is global consumer demand, and the ever-increasing drive for profits constantly expanding the farmlands.

A carbon offset credit program needs to be initiated to help to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and it will entail the cooperation of all the world’s economies.

In regards to climate change, the carbon footprint of avocado vs 73 other foods is a cause for concern not just for today but for future generations to come.5

Frequently Asked Questions About the Carbon Footprint of Avocado

What Is the Avocado Environmental Impact vs Car and What Is the Carbon Footprint of Avocado vs Car?

If the greenhouse gas effect was based solely on the production stage for avocados, a car would have to drive for about 2 miles (3.25 kilometers) to emit the equivalence in emissions of 0.9 kg CO2e to match the avocado carbon footprint.6

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Avocado vs Beef and the Carbon Footprint of Beef per Kg?

Beef is known for leaving a very big carbon footprint in its wake. It is 4 times as high as avocados with a CO2e at 27.983 kg.

What Is the Difference Between Avocado Water Consumption vs Meat?

Water consumption for avocados can fluctuate depending on weather conditions and location. But not so for livestock; cows, sheep, and pigs require a fixed amount of fresh water daily in order to survive whereas rainwater can ease the reliance on fresh or groundwater for trees.

What Are the Livestock Greenhouse Gas Emissions Percentage and the Meat Industry CO2 Emissions Percentage?

Livestock is a major contributor to climate change, with global emissions registered at 16.5%. and in terms of CO2 emissions, that percentage is an incredible 60% worldwide.7

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Chicken vs Beef?

Undoubtedly beef farming creates a larger carbon footprint than poultry farming due to the levels of wastage, methane, and manure produced compared to a chicken. The carbon footprint for factory-farmed chickens is 3.2 kg CO2e vs 27.983 CO2e for beef.

Read More About Carbon Footprint of Avocado


References

1Dekevich, D. (2022, March 10). Avocados. Food Source Information. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://fsi.colostate.edu/avocados/>

2Fecht, S. (2021, February 25). How Exactly Does Carbon Dioxide Cause Global Warming? State of the Planet. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2021/02/25/carbon-dioxide-cause-global-warming/>

3UCAR. (2022). What’s Your Carbon Footprint?. UCAR Center for Science Education. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/climate-solutions/carbon-footprint>

4Sauls, J. W., Nesbitt, M., Stein, L., & Kamas, J. (2013, June 21). Avocados. Aggie Horticulture. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/files/2015/04/avocados_2015.pdf>

5Plant Village. (2022). Avocado. Plant Village. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://plantvillage.psu.edu/topics/avocado/infos>

6UCAR. (2022). The Greenhouse Effect. UCAR Center for Science Education. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://scied.ucar.edu/learning-zone/how-climate-works/greenhouse-effect>

7Sands, R. (2022, June 10). Climate Change. USDA ERS. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from <https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/climate-change/>

8Moseman, A. & Martínez, J.V. (2021, September 02). How Can Carbon Emissions From Freight Be Reduced? Climate Portal. Retrieved November 24, 2022, from <https://climate.mit.edu/ask-mit/how-can-carbon-emissions-freight-be-reduced>

9Photo by HONG SON. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-a-person-holding-avocado-5085078/>

10Photo by Muhammad-taha Ibrahim. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/fruit-stand-2304053/>

11Photo by Eddie Pipocas. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/Utnc4nbYFKo>

12Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/rectangular-purple-plastic-basket-full-of-green-avocado-fruits-940902/>

13Photo by Artem Beliaikin. Unsplash. Retrieved from <https://unsplash.com/photos/Mpm69Pad_-8>

14Photo by Ronit HaNegby. Pexels. Retrieved from <https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-fresh-meat-and-salmon-with-fruits-and-vegetables-on-a-chopping-board-5463882/>

15Avocado Farm Photo by USDAgov|Lance Cheung / Public Domain Mark 1.0. Resized. From Flickr <https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/46908748094/sizes/c/>