Is Eating Blueberries Ethical & Sustainable? Here Are the Facts
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Hey fellow impactful ninja ? You may have noticed that Impactful Ninja is all about providing helpful information to make a positive impact on the world and society. And that we love to link back to where we found all the information for each of our posts. Most of these links are informational-based for you to check out their primary sources with one click. But some of these links are so-called "affiliate links" to products that we recommend. First and foremost, because we believe that they add value to you. For example, when we wrote a post about the environmental impact of long showers, we came across an EPA recommendation to use WaterSense showerheads. So we linked to where you can find them. Or, for many of our posts, we also link to our favorite books on that topic so that you can get a much more holistic overview than one single blog post could provide. And when there is an affiliate program for these products, we sign up for it. For example, as Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases. First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you. When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you. And when you buy something through a link that is not an affiliate link, we won’t receive any commission but we’ll still be happy to have helped you. When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it. When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you). And at this point in time, all money is reinvested in sharing the most helpful content with you. This includes all operating costs for running this site and the content creation itself. You may have noticed by the way Impactful Ninja is operated that money is not the driving factor behind it. It is a passion project of mine and I love to share helpful information with you to make a positive impact on the world and society. However, it's a project in that I invest a lot of time and also quite some money. Eventually, my dream is to one day turn this passion project into my full-time job and provide even more helpful information. But that's still a long time to go. Stay impactful,
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Hey fellow impactful ninja ?
You may have noticed that Impactful Ninja is all about providing helpful information to make a positive impact on the world and society. And that we love to link back to where we found all the information for each of our posts.
Most of these links are informational-based for you to check out their primary sources with one click.
But some of these links are so-called "affiliate links" to products that we recommend.
First and foremost, because we believe that they add value to you. For example, when we wrote a post about the environmental impact of long showers, we came across an EPA recommendation to use WaterSense showerheads. So we linked to where you can find them. Or, for many of our posts, we also link to our favorite books on that topic so that you can get a much more holistic overview than one single blog post could provide.
And when there is an affiliate program for these products, we sign up for it. For example, as Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you.
And when you buy something through a link that is not an affiliate link, we won’t receive any commission but we’ll still be happy to have helped you.
When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you).
And at this point in time, all money is reinvested in sharing the most helpful content with you. This includes all operating costs for running this site and the content creation itself.
You may have noticed by the way Impactful Ninja is operated that money is not the driving factor behind it. It is a passion project of mine and I love to share helpful information with you to make a positive impact on the world and society. However, it's a project in that I invest a lot of time and also quite some money.
Eventually, my dream is to one day turn this passion project into my full-time job and provide even more helpful information. But that's still a long time to go.
Blueberries are a popular American fruit, with almost 700 million lbs of them produced every year. They are an amazing addition to baked goods and pack a strong nutritional punch with lots of antioxidants and vitamin K. However, there are also many aspects of the blueberry industry that can cause significant humanitarian and environmental issues. So, we had to ask: Is eating blueberries ethical and sustainable?
Eating blueberries is very unethical. The blueberry industry has been involved in numerous reports of criminal practices such as child labor, improper housing conditions, strike-breaking, and poverty wages. Therefore, they are extremely unethical compared to other fruits.
Eating blueberries is very unsustainable. Their production involves the use of very damaging practices to the environment, such as high pesticide usage, harmful fertilizers, plastic packaging, monoculture farming techniques, and a high carbon footprint.
In this article, we will assess both the ethical and sustainability practices of the blueberry industry. Through these two lenses, you will be able to gain in-depth knowledge of the overall impacts of the blueberries that you eat!
Here’s How We Assessed the Ethics & Sustainability of Blueberries
The Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems (SAFA) is one of the ways we measure the externalities of our actions, like the consumption of blueberries. It is a holistic assessment based on the potential impact of food and agriculture operations on the environment and people. Those impacts are changes in our environment that can have adverse effects on the air, land, water, fish, and wildlife or the inhabitants of the ecosystem.
“Ethical: The discipline concerned with what is morally good and bad and morally right and wrong”Encyclopedia Britannica
Ethics and sustainability are closely interconnected concepts that share a common objective: the well-being and preservation of our planet, including all its life and future generations.
“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”Oxford Dictionary
Basically, all goods and services you buy—including blueberries—leave an impact on people, animals, and our environment. And when it comes to food in general, the following are key factors for their ethics and sustainability:
- Social and economic conditions: The ethics of food crucially depends on the social and economic conditions of the farmers who grow them. Especially on fair labor practices, including fair wages and safe working conditions.
- Seasonality: Eating seasonally is a lever of sustainability. The two key reasons are that seasonal food is more likely grown in their “natural growing season” without using greenhouses, and also more likely to be grown locally.
- Land requirements: Large parts of the world that were once covered by forests and wildlands are now used for agriculture. 10 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually and 50% of the world’s habitable land is now used for agriculture. This loss of natural habitat has been the main driver for reducing the world’s biodiversity.
- Water footprint: 70% of global freshwater is now used for agricultural purposes. By assessing the water footprint of a particular food, we can determine how our limited freshwater resources are being consumed and polluted.
- Pesticide and fertilizer usage: Pesticides and fertilizers provide a range of agricultural benefits. However, numerous studies link pesticides and fertilizers to serious effects on human health, along with disruptions to vital ecosystems and the spread of aquatic dead zones.
- Carbon footprint: The carbon footprint is one of the ways we measure the effects of our human-induced global climate change. Today, food production accounts for over a quarter (26%) of global greenhouse gas emissions.
- Waste generation: Food and its packaging account for almost 45% of the materials landfilled in the US alone. And packaging sent to landfills, especially when made from plastics, does not degrade quickly or, in some cases, at all.
To understand the overall environmental impact of blueberries, we must assess each of their key factors. This Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture Systems (SAFA) is a tool developed for assessing the impact of food and agriculture operations on the environment and people. And this tool helps us to evaluate whether eating blueberries is ethical & sustainable.
Here’s How Ethical & Sustainable Eating Blueberries Is
The overall ethics & sustainability of blueberries is very low. Their production involves many different unethical and unsustainable practices, including child labor, low wages, deforestation, monoculture farming, and plastic packaging.
There are a few positive qualities to blueberries when it comes to ethics and sustainability. For example, they don’t require any irrigation because they grow in a very rainy climate, and they also don’t produce any organic waste. However, the vast majority of their practices are extremely unethical and unsustainable.
So, let’s have a look at the ethics & sustainability impact of each key factor of blueberries!
|Key Assessment Factors||Ethics & Sustainability|
|Social and economic conditions of blueberries||Blueberries’ social and economic conditions are very negative. The blueberry industry has some of the most egregious labor rights violations, including the use of child labor, criminally low wages, and dangerous housing situations for workers.|
|Seasonality of blueberries||Blueberries’ seasonality is fairly long, running from April to September. Because they have to be shipped from South America during the winter, their seasonality is very important to their sustainability.|
|Land requirements for blueberries||Blueberries’ land requirements are fairly high. On top of this, they also use harmful practices like monoculture farming and are known to contribute to soil erosion.|
|Water footprint of blueberries||Blueberries have a moderate water requirement of 50 inches per year. However, because of where they grow, they don’t need to be irrigated, which lowers their water footprint significantly.|
|Agrochemical usage for blueberries||Blueberries’ agrochemical use is fairly high. Their use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a particular concern, meaning this stage is not very sustainable.|
|Carbon footprint of blueberries||Blueberries have a high carbon footprint of 0.45kg (1lb) of CO2e per pound of blueberries. This is mainly because of their high pesticide use, mechanized farming methods, refrigerated transportation, and use of plastic packaging. Their footprint is significant compared to many other fruits, especially other berries.|
|Waste generation of blueberries||Blueberries’ waste generation is moderate. Though they don’t have much organic waste, they use plastic packaging, which usually ends up in landfills.|
These are the overall summaries, but there is a lot more to the story. In the next few sections, we will dive deeper into each stage to illustrate to you all the important aspects of blueberries’ ethics & sustainability.
How Ethical & Sustainable Are the Social and Economic Conditions for Blueberries
Blueberries’ social and economic conditions are very negative. The blueberry industry has some of the most egregious labor rights violations, including the use of child labor, criminally low wages, and dangerous housing situations for workers.
Everything we consume was made or harvested by somebody. In past centuries, this was often someone who lived in your community and who you might have even known personally. But through the rise of globalized distribution systems, we have become increasingly alienated from the people who make our food. This leaves a lot of room for exploitation and abuse, both of which are rampant in the food industry. Here, we will look at how the blueberry industry fares in relation to these ethical questions.
How ethical & sustainable are the social and economic conditions of growing blueberries?
- Are farmers paid fair wages to grow blueberries: There are conflicting reports of blueberry workers’ wages, and also considerable variation from country to country. For example, in Australia, there have been major accusations of very low wages for blueberry farm workers, at around $3 AUD (~$2 USD) an hour. This is 1/7th of Australia’s minimum wage of $21 AUD (~$14 USD) per hour. In the US, one report indicated that blueberry workers make above the federal minimum wage at around $15 USD per hour. However, other reports imply that wages for blueberry workers are so low in the US, as little as $5 per hour, that workers frequently enlist their children to help them with their labor. Therefore, when it comes to wages, Australian workers make shockingly low wages and American workers have mixed reports about wages.
- How safe are the working conditions to grow blueberries: The main safety concerns reported in the blueberry industry are exposure to chemical hazards from pesticides, as well as serious repetitive strain injuries in the back and knees. There have also been reports of dangerous wildlife, such as venomous snakes that can pose serious harm to workers on blueberry farms.
- Are there reports of child or forced labor to grow blueberries: Blueberry farms in the US have been accused of child labor. One report indicates that children as young as five years old were picking blueberries on a Michigan farm, one that supplies to Walmart. This wasn’t a one-time occurrence, either. A boy of eleven reported he had been working on the farm since he was eight. Additionally, the random spot checks that found the above crimes found similar instances of child labor in 8 out of 35 Michigan farms, a rate of almost 25%! The fact that these horrific practices have been able to continue for years at such a high rate means that the investigations around child labor in the US are nowhere near as diligent and frequent as they clearly need to be. As a result, it is possible that those who have bought American-grown blueberries in the past have bought those that have been picked using child labor.
- What is the wider economic impact on the communities that grow blueberries: Accounts of migrant workers in North Carolina’s blueberry fields paint a tragic picture of the blueberry’s ethical impact. Parents and children alike have to work 12, even 16-hour days to make ends meet. Lack of affordable or safe childcare often means that parents have no choice but to take their children to the fields with them, exposing them to dangerous conditions or even putting them to work as well. Furthermore, there are significant infrastructural issues around migrant work programs. If they aren’t housed directly by the farm (which comes with its own set of problems), migrant workers often live in substandard or even dangerous housing situations. For example, one account from a 17-year-old girl explains how lack of access to housing meant her and her entire family had to live in their car throughout their time as migrant blueberry workers.
In short, the blueberry industry’s participation in significant labor violations, such as child labor, substandard conditions for workers, and extremely low wages means it is one of the most unethical fruits out there.
How Ethical & Sustainable Are the Seasonality for Blueberries
Blueberries’ seasonality is fairly long, running from April to September. Because they have to be shipped from South America during the winter, their seasonality is very important to their sustainability.
Every fruit has a natural season in which they grow, usually lasting a couple of months, which can range depending on the region. However, international demand for every kind of fruit is year-round. This demand is often met by importing fruits from tropical places which can grow year-round, or by growing them in greenhouses. Both of these methods use more resources and are thus less sustainable than conventional farming. Here, we will look at how the blueberry industry accommodates year-round demand.
How ethical & sustainable is it to grow blueberries in-season vs out-of-season?
- When is the natural season for growing and harvesting blueberries: Blueberries are in-season between April and September. This is on the longer end of seasonality for fruits.
- How are blueberries naturally grown in-season: In-season, most blueberries are grown in North America, especially in states like Oregon and Washington.
- How are blueberries grown out-of-season: In the winter months, most blueberries are grown in South America. This means that they need to be shipped long distances and so are less sustainable during the winter months.
In short, because blueberries can’t grow in North America during the winter, their seasonality matters considerably for their sustainability.
How Ethical & Sustainable Are the Land Requirements for Blueberries
Blueberries’ land requirements are fairly high. On top of this, they also use harmful practices like monoculture farming and are known to contribute to soil erosion.
The growth stage has a major impact on fruits’ sustainability. The amount of land used, especially in relation to its expansion, the method with which they are grown, and their effect on surrounding land and wildlife are all important factors. In this section, we will look at the ways in which blueberries’ land usage affects their sustainability.
How ethical & sustainable are the land requirements for growing blueberries?
- What is the land usage of blueberries: Blueberries yield between 10–15 tons per hectare. This is a fairly low land yield compared to other fruits. For example, strawberries yield up to 25 tons per hectare, and bananas up to 100. Therefore, their land usage is not very sustainable.
- Where and how are blueberries grown: Blueberries are cultivated all over the US, with 26 states producing them commercially. Blueberries grow on bushes that are sometimes farmed, and sometimes wild. These blueberry bushes sequester carbon very well. This means that they are able to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the ground, which is good for their sustainability.
- Are blueberries grown in monocultures or polycultures: Blueberries are mainly grown in monocultures. Monocultures are very unsustainable because they reduce the diversity of food sources for local wildlife.
- How does the growing of blueberries affect soil fertility and erosion: Blueberry fields are prone to soil erosion because their roots are poor at holding onto finer soil. Soil erosion can severely damage the lands that they are farmed on, which is very unsustainable in the long run.
- How does the blueberry industry affect the loss of habitable land: Blueberries use a significant amount of land, mainly because of their low land yield. For example, a 2022 study found that land use was one of the leading negative factors in blueberries’ sustainability.
- How does the blueberry industry affect wildlife and biodiversity: Monocultures are very damaging to biodiversity. They limit the growth of many important soil microbes and deplete pollinators of the diverse nutrients they need to thrive.
In short, despite their carbon sequestering properties, blueberries’ use of monoculture farming and participation in soil erosion means they have a very unsustainable relationship to land.
How Ethical & Sustainable Is the Water Footprint of Blueberries
Blueberries have a moderate water requirement of 50 inches per year. However, because of where they grow, they don’t need to be irrigated, which lowers their water footprint significantly.
Water usage is one of the most important factors in a fruit’s sustainability. Practices like irrigation use significant resources and can cause pollution, and as such, factors like the amount of water used, where it is sourced, as well as the way they affect the water sources around them, are all important. Here, we will look at these different angles of blueberries’ water footprint.
How ethical & sustainable is the water footprint of growing blueberries?
- What is the overall water usage of blueberries: Blueberries need about 50 inches of water per year. This is a very average water requirement for fruits and so their water footprint is moderate.
- What is the green water footprint of blueberries: The green water footprint is the amount of water from precipitation stored in the soil and used by plants for growth. Most blueberries consumed by Americans are grown in Washington state, which can get up to 100 inches of rain per year. This means that only about half the annual rainfall needs to go towards blueberry irrigation. Therefore, blueberries have an extremely low green water footprint.
- What is the blue water footprint of blueberries: The blue water footprint is the amount of water sourced from surface (such as rivers or lakes) or groundwater resources. Since Washington’s annual rainfall is more than enough to satisfy blueberries’ water requirements, they don’t need irrigation. As a result, their blue water footprint is very small.
- What is the gray water footprint of blueberries: The gray water footprint is the amount of freshwater required to clean up water pollution to meet certain quality standards. Essentially, it’s the amount of water needed to make polluted water clean enough to be safe and healthy for humans and the environment. Blueberries have very high pesticide usage. This means that a high amount of water is needed to clean up their pesticide residue, raising their gray water footprint significantly.
- How does the blueberry industry affect freshwater and ocean pollution: Pesticides are a major water polluter, especially in rainier climates, like Washington, where runoff is more common. Because they use a significant amount of pesticides, blueberries contribute significantly to freshwater and ocean pollution, which is incredibly unsustainable.
In short, despite their excessive usage of pesticides, blueberries’ water usage is very low and so they are relatively sustainable at this stage.
How Ethical & Sustainable Is the Agrochemical Usage for Blueberries
Blueberries’ agrochemical use is fairly high. Their use of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is a particular concern, meaning this stage is not very sustainable.
Pesticides and fertilizers are agrochemicals that are very unsustainable and damaging to ecosystems. This is because they require resources to create and can easily run off into groundwater and soil systems. Here, we will look at how sustainable blueberries’ pesticide and fertilizer rates really are.
How ethical & sustainable is the agrochemical usage of growing blueberries?
- What is the pesticide usage of blueberries: Blueberries use a high amount of pesticides. Pesticides can cause many kinds of environmental damage, including poisoning surrounding wildlife, and leakages getting into soil and groundwater.
- What is the fertilizer usage of blueberries: Blueberries typically use fertilizers ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate. Ammonium sulfate generally has a minor environmental impact. Ammonium nitrate, however, is more harmful to the environment. The widespread use of these harmful chemicals is a very unsustainable practice.
- Are there any known issues connected to the agrochemical usage for blueberries: Ammonium nitrate carries a number of risks, such as the risk of explosion due to poor storage. These pose more immediate environmental risks, which are still unsustainable.
In short, the fact that blueberries use damaging and potentially dangerous chemicals like ammonium nitrate, as well as high amounts of pesticides, means their sustainability is very low at this stage.
How Ethical & Sustainable Is the Carbon Footprint of Blueberries
Blueberries have a high carbon footprint of 0.45kg (1lb) of CO2e per pound of blueberries. This is mainly because of their high pesticide use, mechanized farming methods, refrigerated transportation, and use of plastic packaging. Their footprint is significant compared to many other fruits, especially other berries.
Carbon footprint is one aspect of the overall sustainability of a fruit. It essentially measures how much carbon or other greenhouse gasses the production of fruits emits into the atmosphere. Emissions from product manufacturing, irrigation, transportation fuel, and landfills all add up to create the overall carbon footprint of a fruit. Let’s see how the carbon footprint of blueberries contributes to their overall sustainability.
How ethical & sustainable is the carbon footprint of blueberries?
- What is the overall carbon footprint of blueberries: The overall carbon footprint of blueberries is 0.45kg (1lb) of CO2e per pound of blueberries. This means that for every pound of blueberries, 0.45kg of carbon is released into the atmosphere. This is a very high carbon footprint for a fruit, particularly among berries. For example, raspberries have a carbon footprint of 0.15kg (0.33lb) of CO2e per pound of raspberries.
- What are the main contributors to the carbon footprint of blueberries: The main factors that contribute to blueberries’ environmental impact are mechanized farming, high pesticide use, and the use of plastic packaging.
- Which life-cycle stage of blueberries has the highest carbon footprint: Harvesting and packaging is the stage that contributes the most to blueberries’ carbon footprint. This is because they are harvested and processed mechanically, and use plastic packaging, which requires carbon emissions to produce.
In short, blueberries have a lot of high-emitting steps in their manufacturing process, leading them to have an above-average carbon footprint for a fruit, which is not very sustainable.
How Ethical & Sustainable Is the Waste Generation of Blueberries
Blueberries’ waste generation is moderate. Though they don’t have much organic waste, they use plastic packaging, which usually ends up in landfills.
When fruit waste, either in the form of packaging or organic materials, is disposed of, it can cause a lot of problems. Whether it’s damaging wildlife, getting into oceans, emitting methane, or dissolving into microplastics that contaminate groundwater, all these materials have their part to play. The sheer amount of waste we produce is reaching a crisis point and won’t be able to continue much longer. In this section, we will look at how sustainable blueberries’ waste generation is.
How ethical & sustainable is the waste generation of blueberries?
- What is the packaging of blueberries: Blueberries are typically packaged in either cardboard trays or plastic clamshells. Both cardboard and plastic are very unsustainable during their production alone—cardboard because of its link to deforestation, and plastic because of greenhouse gas emissions and chemical runoff associated with this material. Because they use these types of packaging, blueberries have very unsustainable packaging.
- How is the packaging of blueberries disposed of: Plastic and cardboard can both generally be recycled, but they aren’t recycled at the same rates in practice. Cardboard has a very high recycling rate of 89%, whereas plastic has a very low recycling rate of 9%. Therefore, the plastic portion of blueberry packaging is very likely to end up in landfills. Landfills cause significant environmental damage, including land clearance and chemical pollution. Furthermore, plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose. This waste disposal practice is extremely unsustainable.
- How are blueberries disposed of: Blueberries are generally consumed whole, so they don’t have significant consistent food waste. They also have a significantly longer shelf life than other fruits, which means that spoilage is not too much of a risk. When it comes to just food waste, blueberries are actually somewhat sustainable.
In short, blueberries’ use of plastic packaging means that their waste disposal is very unsustainable.
What Have Been Historical Ethics & Sustainability Issues Connected to the Blueberries Industry
The blueberries industry has historically engaged in many unethical and unsustainable practices. They have been accused of multiple major labor violations and have contributed extensively to land loss, especially in Georgia.
All fruits have had a complex road toward global distribution. They originate in one part of the world and often travel far to end up in your local supermarket. From farm to table, some of our favorite fruits have used unsustainable practices. Whether it’s exploiting labor, deforestation to meet demand, water pollution, or disruption of wildlife, most fruits have left a path of destruction. Many of these effects are still felt today or have even increased. Let’s see how blueberries have fared throughout history.
What have been the key ethical & sustainable issues of the blueberries industry?
- Has labor been exploited because of blueberry production: There have been countless instances of horrific labor right violations and abusive practices on blueberry farms. One particular case involved a strike incited by a worker’s death. In response to the strike, the farm fired all the workers. Since many of them lived on the farm as well, this mass firing left them without work or housing. These workers filed a class action lawsuit against the farm in 2018, to which the farm responded with claims that the farm’s conditions were up to labor standards.
- How much land has been lost because of blueberry production: Blueberry farming has been identified as a driving force of deforestation in Georgia. Since blueberry farms are more profitable than Georgia’s forests, farmers have been looking towards deforestation. Between 2010 and 2017, over 15,000 hectares of land were deforested in Georgia to make way for blueberry farms. This is a devastating loss of land and represents the damage to natural land that agriculture can create.
- Which wildlife species have been negatively impacted or displaced because of blueberries production: Georgia has the highest deforestation rate in the US. All of these forests are habitats for many kinds of wildlife. Since habitat loss is the leading cause of endangered species, blueberry farming has contributed significantly to the loss of Georgia’s wildlife. Some of the endangered species of Georgia include the Appalachian cottontail and the gray bat.
- Have water sources and soil been contaminated because of blueberries production: Agricultural pollution, including pesticides, is the leading cause of water pollution. Because blueberries have used so many pesticides throughout their years of cultivation, they have caused harm to a significant number of water sources.
In short, blueberries have historically participated in some very unethical and unsustainable practices, such as extreme labor violations, habitat loss, and pesticide pollution.
How Can You Reduce Your Environmental Impact and Offset Your Personal Carbon Footprint
There are a few things you can do to make your blueberry consumption more ethical and sustainable, while still enjoying them. You can also consider offsetting your personal and blueberry-related carbon emissions, which work to remove carbon emissions elsewhere that are then attributed to you. Here, we will walk you through how to accomplish both of these things.
How Can You Shop for Blueberries More Ethically & Sustainably
In this section, we give you a short list of ways you can consume blueberries in a more sustainable way. This list is designed to target the most unsustainable parts of blueberries’ life-cycle:
- Buy blueberries from ethical sources: Since child labor and labor violations are so prevalent in the blueberry industry, even among farms that supply to major retailers, you should be very careful where you buy your blueberries. You can look for certain labels that indicate they are fair trade or do some research into farms that prioritize ethical treatment of workers. Local farmers markets are also a good option because many of these markets feature independent sellers. Furthermore, avoid fraudulent farmer claims on supermarket produce by asking questions and reading the fine print.
- Try foraging or growing your own: Luckily, if you live in North America, you might already be living in an area that is perfect for blueberry growing. Finding forested areas with wild blueberries or planting a blueberry bush is one of the most ethical and sustainable ways to consume blueberries. They will be local, have minimal pesticides, and won’t involve huge, unethical farming methods.
- Eat blueberries in-season: Blueberries are one of those fruits that have major differences in their sustainability depending on when they are consumed. Winter blueberries have higher carbon emissions than summer blueberries. If you buy blueberries in the summer months only, then you will be cutting down on these distances. Plus, it will be much easier to forage and grow your own during the summer months.
Following some of these methods can really help you to make your blueberry-eating more sustainable. None of these will completely eradicate the negative impacts, since there are always effects that may be outside of your control. But some reduction is always better than nothing!
Which Organizations Can You Support to Help Promote Ethics & Sustainability
While blueberry production engages in some very unsustainable practices, there are also some organizations that help you change the parts of these processes that would otherwise be outside of your control. These organizations are working hard to prevent and reverse damage to the environment caused by industries like blueberry agriculture, towards a more sustainable future.
In the table below are some of the best charities that work in the areas where blueberry production are very unsustainable—and beyond:
Though it is helpful to boost the sustainability of your personal blueberry consumption, supporting these organizations takes your positive impact a step further. You will be reaching far beyond your own consumption impacts and helping to build a better world for everyone!
How Can You Offset Your Personal Carbon Footprint
The carbon footprint is a key part of how sustainable we live. And it is one of the ways we measure the effects of our human-induced global climate change. Yes, even from eating blueberries!
“Carbon footprint: the amount of greenhouse gasses and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (such as a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period”Merriam Webster
Basically, it is the amount of carbon emitted by you as an individual or an organization providing you with goods and services – including blueberries:
- This includes GHG emissions from producing the products that we use and foods that we eat (e.g., power plants, factories or farms, and landfills)
- GHG emissions from fuel that we burn directly or indirectly (e.g., logistics and transportation, cooling or heating facilities),
- as well as the GHG emissions attributed to how we consume these products and foods.
Carbon offsets are reductions in carbon emissions that are used to compensate for carbon emissions occurring elsewhere – for example for the carbon emissions that are associated with blueberries. They are measured in tons of CO2 equivalents and are bought and sold through international brokers, online retailers, and trading platforms on what is known as the global carbon offset market.
“Carbon Offset: a way for a company or person to reduce the level of carbon dioxide for which they are responsible by paying money to a company that works to reduce the total amount produced in the world, for example by planting trees”Oxford Dictionary
In terms of blueberries – and indeed all food types – there will always be a carbon footprint, because of the resources it takes to get your food from farms to the place where you’ll eventually eat them. And while there are ways to reduce your carbon footprint when shopping for blueberries, carbon offsets would be a way to reduce your CO2e emissions all the way down to net zero (or even to become climate positive).
However, when you purchase carbon offsets, it’s important that they actually make a difference in offsetting (aka reducing) total carbon emissions. To achieve that, the following are key criteria:
- Carbon offset projects have to be effective (different projects have different effectiveness rates)
- Carbon offset projects have to be additional
- Carbon offset projects have to be permanent
- The claims from carbon offset projects have to be verifiable
To find the best carbon offsets for you personally, check out our full guide on the best carbon offsets for individuals, where you’ll also learn more about how these carbon offset projects work, what their respective offsetting costs are, and what your best way would be to offset your own carbon emissions.
The blueberry industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to ethics and sustainability. These demonstrate some of the most horrific labor conditions in the fruit industry—including child labor—and some very unsustainable practices such as plastic packaging and monoculture farming. However, the good news is that you can have an impact on these conditions. By consuming more ethically and sustainably, you can do your part to support better farms, and by supporting organizations that fight for labor rights and environmental protections, you can be a part of a mass movement towards a more ethical and sustainable fruit industry.
- AGMRC: Blueberries
- WebMD: Health Benefits Blueberries
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: SAFA (Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture systems) Guidelines
- Food Ethics Council: What is food ethics?
- The Fair Labor Association: Agriculture Standards
- MDPI Sustainability: Eating in Season—A Lever of Sustainability? An Interview Study on the Social Perception of Seasonal Consumption
- MDPI Foods: The Role of Local Seasonal Foods in Enhancing Sustainable Food Consumption: A Systematic Literature Review
- UN Environment Programme: Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment: Towards an Integrated Approach
- Our World in Data: The environmental impacts of food and agriculture
- Our World in Data: Global land use for food production
- World Health Organization: Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks
- ScienceDirect (Biological Conservation): Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers
- EPA: The Sources and Solutions: Agriculture
- EPA: Reducing Food Waste and Packaging
- FoodPrint: The Environmental Impact of Food Packaging
- Blueberry: Seasonality
- Plantophiles: Blueberry Watering
- Impactful Ninja: What is the Carbon Footprint of Blueberries
- Our World in Data: Greenhouse Gas Emissions per 1,000 kilocalories
- ABC: Report Alleges Wage Theft
- Fair Work: Australia Minimum Wage
- Kima TV: Blueberry Debate Over Farm Workers’ Wages
- Anti Slavery: US Blueberry Farms Accused of Using Child Labour
- AFOP: Children At Work
- Migrant Clinician: Migrant Blueberry Workers
- The Conversation: Housing for Migrant Workers
- USA TOday: Migrant Farm Workers Face Poor Housing Conditions
- Blueberry: Where Blueberries Grow
- Harvesso: Blueberry
- Impactful Ninja: What is the Carbon Footprint of Strawberries
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- Blueberry.org: Where Do Blueberries Grow
- California Grown: How Are Blueberries Grown
- CDN Science: Seasonal Growth Dynamics and Carbon Allocation of the Wild Blueberry
- National Grid: What is Carbon Sequestration
- Impactful Ninja: Why is a Carbon Footprint Bad for the Environment?
- NBI Health: Toxic Blueberries and 2.2 Billion Other Reasons to Eat Organic
- The Independent: Avocado, Coffee, and Citrus Fruit Threaten Global Food Security
- CDN: Protection of Lowbush Blueberry Soils From Erosion
- WWF: Effects of Soil Erosion and Land Degradation
- Science Direct: Environmental Behavior of Blueberry Production
- Gallant Intl: Environmental Impacts of Monocultures
- Water Footprint: What is a Water Footprint?
- Hort Daily: World’s Top Ten Blueberry Producing Countries
- WRCC: Annual Precipitation Washington
- Daily Mail: Superfoods Like Blueberries, Spinach, and Kale Laced with Dangerous Chemicals
- Permaculture News: Pesticides and Water Pollution
- Pesticide Stewardship: The Problem of Runoff
- Friends of the Earth: Effects of Pesticides on Our Wildlife
- USGS: Pesticides in Groundwater
- Extension: Suggested Blueberry Fertilization
- Arkema: GPS Safety Summary
- Research Gate: Environmental Impact of Ammonium Nitrate Fertilizer
- GICHD: Reducing Risks Associated with Ammonium Nitrate
- Our World in Data: Environmental Impacts of Food Production
- Impactful Ninja: What is the Carbon Footprint of Raspberries
- WSU: Harvesting Blueberries
- TIS: Blueberries Transportation
- City to Sea: How Does Plastic Contribute to Climate Breakdown
- TRVST: Environmental Impact of Cardboard
- ITP Packaging: Is Plastic Packaging Bad for the Environment?
- Also Known As: 12 Interesting Facts About Packaging
- Colorado: Hidden Damage of Landfills
- Forge Recycling: How Long It Takes For Everyday Items to Decompose
- NCBI: Proper Storage for Blueberries
- Science Direct: The Role and Potential of Blueberry in Increasing Deforestation
- Trees Atlanta: Georgia Leads the Way in Urban Tree Loss
- National Geographic: Endangered Species
- Earth’s Endangered: Endangered Species List Georgia
- NRDC: Water Pollution
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Climate Change Terms
- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities That Advance Ethics Worldwide
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- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities That Fight to Protect our Environment
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- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities That Help Conserve Our Rivers
- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities to Save Our Oceans
- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities for Helping Farm Animals
- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities for Climate Change
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- Impactful Ninja: Best Charities That Fight to Reduce Food Waste
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