The Environmental Impact of Clementines: From Farm to Table
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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.
Clementines have been popular for centuries. They contain just 35 calories and are full of vitamin C and antioxidants. Sometimes known as mandarin oranges, clementines are native to South and Southeast Asia, but are now grown all over the world. However, clementines also have several aspects to their production that can be very harmful to the environment. So we had to ask: What is the environmental impact of clementines?
Clementines have a highly negative environmental impact. This is largely because of the types of fertilizers and amount of pesticides they use, as well as their high irrigation requirements. Their environmental impact is higher than most fruits.
In this article, we will examine the environmental impact of clementines from several different angles. We will go through the life-cycle of clementines, detailing their impact on the environment from growth to distribution to your plate to waste management. We will then compare the environmental impact of clementines to that of other fruits. And, finally, we’ll share some tips with you on how you can reduce your own environmental impact and offset your own carbon emissions – both for your personal life and clementine-related.
Here’s How We Assessed the Environmental Impact of Clementines
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the ways we measure the potential environmental effects of our actions, like the consumption of clementines. It is a holistic assessment based on the environmental changes associated with our consumption. Those are changes in our environment that can have adverse effects on the air, land, water, fish, and wildlife or the inhabitants of the ecosystem.
“Environmental Impact: the effect that the activities of people and businesses have on the environment”Cambridge Dictionary
Basically, all goods and services you buy – including clementines – leave an impact on our environment. When it comes to food in general, and clementines in specific, the following are key factors:
- 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 clementines, we must assess each of their key factors. This Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a tool originally developed to identify the environmental impacts of a project prior to decision-making and also helps us to evaluate the environmental impacts of clementines, from farm to table.
Here’s the Overall Environmental Impact of Clementines
The overall environmental impact of clementines is significantly negative. The main factors that contribute to this are their irrigation requirements, pesticide use, plastic packaging, and phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer usage.
Clementines have a lot of positive qualities in terms of their environmental impact. For one, they store carbon well and have an incredibly low carbon footprint. But besides these things, clementines contribute very significantly to environmental damage.
So, let’s have a look at the environmental impact of each key factor of clementines!
|Key Assessment Factors
|Land requirements for clementines
|Clementines’ land requirements are fairly high, yielding only 16 tons per hectare. They also farm in monocultures and have been linked to deforestation, meaning their environmental impact is very negative at this stage.
|Water footprint of clementines
|Clementines have a moderate water footprint of 50 inches of water per year. Because of where they grow, they need considerable irritation, which raises their footprint significantly.
|Agrochemical usage for clementines
|Clementines’ agrochemical use is very high. This, paired with the fact that they use phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers means that they have a very negative environmental impact in this area.
|Carbon footprint of clementines
|The carbon footprint of clementines is 0.06 kg (0.13 lbs) CO2e per pound of clementines. The main contributors to this carbon footprint are their use of pesticides, the energy used to transport them, and the use of plastic packaging. However, this carbon footprint is still relatively small compared to other fruits.
|Waste generation of clementines
|Clementines’ waste generation is high. This is especially true considering the low recycling rates of their wood and plastic packaging, as well as their low composting rates.
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 clementines’ environmental impact.
What Are the Land Requirements for Clementines
Clementines’ land requirements are fairly high, yielding only 16 tons per hectare. They also farm in monocultures and have been linked to deforestation, meaning their environmental impact is very negative at this stage.
Growing clementines has a lot of variables that contribute to their environmental impact. The amount of land they use, the way in which they grow, and the amount of time they take to grow will all contribute to their environmental impact.
How do the land requirements of clementines impact their environmental footprint?
- What is the land usage of clementines: Clementines yield around 16 tons per hectare. This is a moderately low yield amongst fruits. For example, strawberries yield up to 25 tons per hectare and bananas up to 100. Therefore, clementines will need slightly more space than the average fruit to grow, on a per-ton basis.
- Where and how are clementines grown: The majority of the world’s clementines are grown in China. Clementines grow on shrub trees, which are evergreen. Fruit trees are excellent at sequestering carbon. Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing carbon from the air and then storing it in the ground. This lowers clementines’ carbon footprint and thus their environmental impact.
- Are clementines grown in monocultures or polycultures: Being citrus fruits, clementines are mainly grown in monocultures. Monocultures are very damaging to the environment and so this growth method raises clementines harm considerably.
- How does the growing of clementines affect soil fertility and erosion: Citrus farms have been identified as a major driver of soil erosion. Excess soil erosion and depletion of nutrients can lead to a phenomenon known as desertification. Desertification renders vast swaths of land completely uninhabitable and unfarmable, essentially making them into deserts. This significantly raises clementines’ negative environmental impact.
- How does the clementines industry affect the loss of habitable land: Being a citrus fruit, clementines have been linked to deforestation, especially in the Amazon. Deforestation is not just bad for the specific wildlife and people who live there, but can cause chain reactions with global consequences. Losing this habitable land to clementine and other citrus production is devastating to the environment.
- How does the clementines industry affect wildlife and biodiversity: Clementines are not only linked to deforestation, but monoculture farming, which does not replace natural forests with equivalent vegetation. Monocultures deprive large areas of biodiversity, sometimes turning areas into deserts. Pollinators like bees and butterflies are particularly harmed. This means that clementine farming can have a significant impact on the environment.
In short, clementines’ use of monoculture farming, low land yield, and participation in deforestation means they harm the environment quite a lot in this area.
What Is the Water Footprint of Clementines
Clementines have a moderate water footprint of 50 inches of water per year. Because of where they grow, they need considerable irritation, which raises their footprint significantly.
Water usage is one of the most important factors in the environmental impact of a fruit. The amount of water used, as well as the way they affect the water sources around them, are all major contributing factors. Here, we will look at these different angles to clementines’ water impact.
How does the water footprint of clementines impact their environmental footprint?
- What is the overall water usage of clementines: Clementines need around 50 inches of water per year. This is a very average water requirement amongst fruits and so their water footprint is moderate.
- What is the green water footprint of clementines: The green water footprint is the amount of water from precipitation stored in the soil and used by plants for growth. Most US-consumed clementines are imported from Spain. Spain only gets about 25 inches of rainfall a year, and so the majority of the water in the area will be going towards clementines’ water needs. This means that clementines’ green water footprint is very high.
- What is the blue water footprint of clementines: The blue water footprint is the amount of water sourced from surface (such as rivers or lakes) or groundwater resources. Since Spain doesn’t get enough water to meet clementines’ water needs naturally, they will require a significant amount of irrigation. As a result, their blue water footprint is very high.
- What is the gray water footprint of clementines: 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. Clementines have been found to use a high amount of pesticides. This means that a considerable amount of water is needed to clean up clementines’ pesticide residue and so their gray water footprint is high.
- How does the clementines industry affect freshwater and ocean pollution: Clementines use a significant amount of both irrigation and pesticides. Irrigation can cause serious damage to water sources, such as destabilizing groundwater balances and oversalinating freshwater. Likewise, pesticides can pollute water sources, presenting danger for aquatic life.
In short, clementines have a serious water impact, mainly due to their high irrigation needs and significant pesticide usage.
What Is the Agrochemical Usage for Clementines
Clementines’ agrochemical use is very high. This, paired with the fact that they use phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers means that they have a very negative environmental impact in this area.
Pesticides and fertilizers are agrochemicals that can have a significant impact on the environment. They both require resources to create as well as have effects on the life around them. Here, we will look at how clementines’ pesticide and fertilizer rates affect their environmental impact.
How does the agrochemical usage of clementines impact their environmental footprint?
- What is the pesticide usage of clementines: Clementines use a considerable amount of pesticides, particularly fungicides. Pesticides can cause many kinds of environmental damage, including poisoning surrounding wildlife, and leakages getting into soil and groundwater. Fungicides in particular are harmful to microorganisms in soil, reducing biodiversity in surrounding areas. This means that clementines’ pesticide and fungicide usage has a significantly negative impact on the environment.
- What is the fertilizer usage of clementines: Clementines typically use an equal part potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen fertilizer. While potassium generally has a minimal environmental impact, both phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers can be very damaging to the environment. As a result, clementines’ fertilizer usage is very damaging to the environment.
- Are there any known issues connected to the agrochemical usage for clementines: The particular fungicides that are used in the production of clementines can be very harmful to human health. They have been found to have hormone-disrupting qualities and are known carcinogens, which can also affect animals.
In short, clementines’ use of excessive agrochemicals, especially phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers, is very damaging to the environment.
What Is the Carbon Footprint of Clementines
The carbon footprint of clementines is 0.06 kg (0.13 lbs) CO2e per pound of clementines. The main contributors to this carbon footprint are their use of pesticides, the energy used to transport them, and the use of plastic packaging. However, this carbon footprint is still relatively small compared to other fruits.
Carbon footprint is one aspect of the overall environmental impact of a fruit. It essentially measures how much carbon or other greenhouse gasses the production of clementines 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 clementines breaks down and contributes to their environmental impact.
How does the carbon footprint of clementines impact their environmental footprint?
- What is the overall carbon footprint of clementines: Clementines have an overall carbon footprint of 0.06 kg (0.13 lbs) CO2e per pound of clementines. This means that for every pound of clementines produced, 0.06kg of carbon is released into the atmosphere. This is one of the lowest carbon footprints amongst fruit.
- What are the main contributors to the carbon footprint of clementines: The main factors that contribute to the carbon footprint of clementines are pesticide rates, use of plastic packaging, and long transportation distances.
- Which life-cycle stage of clementines has the highest carbon footprint: The life cycle that contributes the most to clementines’ carbon footprint is transportation. This is because clementines have to be shipped to the US from places like Spain and Peru. They also need to be refrigerated during shipping, which raises their carbon footprint.
In short, though clementines have some carbon-emitting steps to their production process, their carbon footprint is still one of the lowest among fruits.
What Is the Waste Generation of Clementines
Clementines’ waste generation is high. This is especially true considering the low recycling rates of their wood and plastic packaging, as well as their low composting rates.
When fruit waste, either packaging or organic materials, is disposed of, it can have a major impact on the environment. 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. In this section, we will look at how clementines’ waste affects the environment.
How does the waste generation of clementines impact their environmental footprint?
- What is the packaging of clementines: There are generally a few components to clementine packaging: cardboard, wood, and plastic, all of which create environmental damage when produced. Plastic has devastating impacts on the environment, creating air and water pollution during their production process which is harmful to people and wildlife. Cardboard and wood are less damaging then plastic, but both still contribute to deforestation, which has serious effects on the environment. Because of using these materials, especially plastic, clementines have a harmful packaging environmental impact.
- How is the packaging of clementines disposed of: The materials used in clementine packaging—wood, cardboard, and plastic—all have very different recycling rates. Cardboard has the highest recycling rate at around 89%. Wood, however, has a much lower recycling rate of only 15%. Plastic has by far the lowest at around 9%. This means that most clementine packaging, especially the wood and plastic components, end up in landfills. Landfills are very harmful to the environment, taking up land space and causing chemical runoff pollution.
- How are clementines disposed of: All of the clementine’s waste, including the pit, is biodegradable. However, only about 4% of compostable materials are actually composted, meaning that most simply go to landfills. Besides the general environmental impacts of landfills, throwing food waste in landfills generates methane, which is a very harmful greenhouse gas. Considering that around 4 million tons of citrus peels (roughly 600,000 tons of clementine peels) are thrown away every year, that’s a major contributor to landfill.
In short, clementines’ use of plastic and wood in their packaging, as well as their low composting rates, means that they contribute to landfills significantly, which has a damaging effect on the environment.
What Have Been Historical Environmental Issues Connected to the Clementines Industry
The clementines industry has historically had a fairly negative environmental impact. They frequently have used harmful chemicals like nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides, as well as requiring significant irrigation, all of which have damaging environmental effects.
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 racked up some serious environmental damage along the way. Whether it’s deforestation to meet demand, water pollution, or disruption of wildlife.. Let’s see how clementines have fared throughout history.
What have been the key environmental issues of the clementines industry?
- How much land has been lost because of clementines production: Clementine production has taken up considerable portions of land, especially in major citrus-producing countries like Spain and Italy. In one Spanish citrus farm, clementine production alone has taken up 66,000 hectares of land. This land use has caused pesticides to be spread far and wide throughout the region, which has damaged wildlife.
- Which wildlife species have been negatively impacted or displaced because of clementines production: One of the major dangers to wildlife is the increasing expansion of monoculture agriculture, which does not offer enough biodiversity to be a thriving ecosystem. Clementines’ historical use of monocultures means that their cultivation has had a significant impact on wildlife.
- Have water sources and soil been contaminated because of clementines production: Irrigation is particularly harmful to water sources because it disrupts natural water balances. Pesticides also get into water and cause issues for aquatic life. Finally, phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers both have a history of promoting invasive algae species, which spread through water. The continued use of irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers by clementine farms means that they have harmed water sources considerably.
In short, clementines’ history of land clearing in Spain and Italy, as well as their use of irrigation and pesticides, and phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizers, have caused them to have a detrimental impact on the environment over the years
What Is the Overall Environmental Impact of Food and Agriculture
Food production in general has a high environmental impact. Everything from the amount of land used to the energy involved in irrigation to its effect on plant and animal biodiversity can be a factor in this. In the chart below, you can see how food production is one of the biggest influences on these areas of the environment.
Agriculture alone accounts for over a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, while using half of the world’s habitable land and 70% of the global freshwater withdrawals. Agriculture also causes 78% of the global ocean and freshwater pollution.
Livestock accounts for the vast majority of non-human mammal and bird biomass. Mammal livestock outweighs wild mammals by a factor of 15-to-1, and poultry livestock outweighs wild birds by a factor of more than 3-to-1.
These statistics highlight the need for sustainable and responsible practices in food production to reduce its impact on the environment. And the need for us to shift toward more environmentally-friendly foods.
How Can You Reduce Your Environmental Impact and Offset Your Personal Carbon Footprint
There are a few things you can do to mitigate some of the negative environmental effects of consuming clementines, while still enjoying them. You can also consider offsetting your personal and clementine-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 Reduce Your Environmental Impact When Shopping for Clementines
In this section, we give you a short list of ways you can reduce the negative environmental effects of clementines, based on those parts of the life-cycle that would otherwise most negatively impact the environment:
- Buy clementines with less (plastic) packaging: This might come at the cost of nicks and bruises, but reducing or even omitting plastic from your clementine footprint is crucial. Even avoiding more easily-recyclable materials like cardboard and wood can help you to reduce your environmental impact. One of the best ways to do this is to buy clementines individually from the grocery store, not in bags or crates.
- Buy organic clementines: Since pesticides are a major contributor to the clementine’s carbon footprint, it would be advisable to purchase organic clementines. Organic farms generally avoid nitrogen fertilizers and so they are good to support if you want to reduce your fertilizer impact. If you make sure to buy organic clementines, you will be able to lower your clementine environmental impact by even more.
- Compost and recycle: Another major contributor to the clementines’ environmental impact is improper waste disposal. Make sure that you compost all organic waste and recycle all paper waste to prevent them from ending up in landfills. If you don’t have a government-run composting or recycling program in your area, consider making your own compost and even using cardboard as roughage.
Following some of these methods can really help you to cut down on your environmental impact of eating clementines. None of these will completely eradicate these 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 Alleviate Your Environmental Impact
While clementines can cause a wide range of environmental damage, there are also some organizations that help you reduce parts of your impact 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 clementines agriculture.
In the table below are some of the best environmental charities that work in the areas where clementines production has affected the environment – and beyond:
Though it is helpful to reduce the environmental impact of your personal clementines 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 your environmental impact. And it is one of the ways we measure the effects of our human-induced global climate change. Yes, even from eating clementines!
“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 clementines:
- 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 clementines. 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 clementines – 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 clementines, 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.
Though clementines have an extremely low carbon footprint, they still can cause a significant amount of damage to the environment. Their fertilizer usage causes significant damage to waterways, their pesticides are harmful to wildlife, and their irrigation puts strains on resources. However, there are lots of ways you can still consume clementines while reducing your environmental impact, such as reducing packaging or contributing to environmental charities. These will help you be a more positively impactful clementine consumer!
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