How sustainable is my avocado addiction?

If you are like me (a mid-20’s, middle-class sustainability-minded-vegan) then questions like these are your bread and not-butter. Pardon the pun.

The topic of sustainable diets is garnering more and more attention due to its connection to both the omnipresent issues of climate change and the politics of resource management. I mean, even former-president Barack Obama is commenting on it.

That means that it’s in vogue now: we can openly discuss this as a hot topic.

while being mouth-watering it sure is water-intensive (Source: Transformation Video on Flickr)

I’ve been in love with the mean-green that is avocado since I began working in café kitchens circa 2005 (before smashed avocado took the world by storm, it would appear). I remember each and every weekend morning being based around the act of splitting and fanning avocados to be gracefully spread on toast. I still get shivers whenever I crack into that sultry shell and see that familiar lime green gold that is representative of the perfect avocado.

But I digress. For me, my connection goes beyond purely nostalgic. It’s is a functional part of my conception of a nutritious and healthy animal-free diet.

For as long as I’ve been a conscious consumer I’ve been bombarded with the facts surrounding the debate over the negative effects of saturated fats and trans fats evident within the western diet. Conversely, I’ve also been subject to the rise of superfoods being praised as heralding a new era of dietary bliss. However, annoyingly, these arguments always seem to hold this assumption that consumption is driven by health and well-being primarily.

a perfectly desirable avocado fan (Source: Sunnyswede on Flickr)

Read: a sustainable diet is one that achieves certain criteria regarding your body’s ability to fulfil its nutritional regiment.

This is all well and good. I’m absolutely on board for having a healthier diet based on nutritional information. These public debates could hopefully help to raise awareness and reduce the statistics currently damning Australia as being “dangerously fat”.

But the facts that have been keeping me from drowning myself in guacamole every second of the day come from the host of environmental and social analysis that are coming to the fore and tainting the vibrant green I love with the colour brown. Specifically the brown that is symbolically linked to drought in California and deforestation in Mexico.

Regardless of the specific drivers championing the 10% annual rise in demand in the UK for our favourite fatty fruit, we have to start to consider the catastrophic effect this is having on two of our biggest global producers.

For Mexico it is evident that, as they continue to increase production they will inevitably begin to drastically change their landscape. This will lead to the incidental issues attributed with deforestation such as a loss of biodiversity, soil degradation and general loss of ecological resilience. A sentiment carried known all-too-well to the state of California who – between the production of almonds and avocados – continue to reach new levels of water scarcity.

A water-loving avocado tree (Source: camknows on Fickr)

To put it succinctly: California went from producing half a kilo of avocados per capita annually in 1999 to almost two kilograms in 2011. If it takes roughly 272 litres of water to produce just half a kilo of avocado then that’s it takes about a cubic metre (i.e. approximately one thousand litres) of water to produce the two kilograms deemed necessary in 2011.

I honestly shudder to think of how much this statistic has risen in the last six years. This shudder is only magnified by the thought of avocado production in Australia.

Thankfully, I am not the only one thinking about this (a shocking turn of events, I know) and there has been strong and consistent analysis looking at this rise in consumption. It’s often just a shame that these conversations are framed as being problematic to “hipsters” or millennials interested in owning property.

3 Responses to “How sustainable is my avocado addiction?”

  1. mdeurwaarder says:

    I know what you mean! I’ve been scaling down my consumption but once you go down that rabbit hole it’s still hard to rationalise the external environmental costs. But I guess that’s true with a whole lot of products that make up the western diet anyway.

  2. Kellen Lowrie says:

    What a great title! Today’s farming practices definitely make being an ethical consumer challenging.

  3. rosemarya says:

    Oh my god… The guilt of adding to the potentially unsustainable avocado production is definitely going to haunt me at my next hungover brunch. Looks like I’ll be ordering smashed avo with a sprinkling of liability.