The Environmental Impact of Mangoes: From Farm to Table

The Environmental Impact of Mangoes: From Farm to Table

By
Teresa Mersereau

Read Time:16 Minutes

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Mangoes are a delicious and versatile fruit. They can be used in anything from chutneys to salads and delicious desserts. They are popular too, with 43 million tons of them produced globally every year. Healthwise, they’re powerhouses with vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K. In fact, just one cup of mangoes has two-thirds of your daily vitamin C requirement. But mangoes can also have some very detrimental environmental effects. So we had to ask: What is the environmental impact of mangoes?

Mangoes have a moderately negative environmental impact. This is mainly because of their use of monoculture planting, deforestation, nitrogen fertilizers, and styrofoam packaging. 

In this article, we will examine the environmental impact of mangoes from several different angles. We will go through the life-cycle of mangoes, detailing their impact on the environment from growth to distribution to your plate to waste management. We will then compare the environmental impact of mangoes 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 mangoes-related.

Here’s How We Assessed the Environmental Impact of Mangoes

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one of the ways we measure the potential environmental effects of our actions, like the consumption of mangoes. 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 mangoes – leave an impact on our environment. When it comes to food in general, and mangoes in specific, the following are key factors:

To understand the overall environmental impact of mangoes, 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 mangoes, from farm to table.

Here’s the Overall Environmental Impact of Mangoes

The overall environmental impact of mangoes is moderately negative. The main factors that contribute to this are high land requirements, monoculture farming, and styrofoam packaging. 

Mangoes do a lot of things right when it comes to environmental impact. They have a moderately low carbon footprint, low pesticide use, and lower water requirements. However, there are still many components to their life cycle that create significant carbon emissions. 

So, let’s have a look at the environmental impact of each key factor of mangoes!

Key Assessment FactorsEnvironmental Impact
Land requirements for mangoesMangoes land requirements are fairly high. They also use monoculture farming practices which cause deforestation, and they have a longer than average growth duration so, they require a lot of resources to grow. 
Water footprint of mangoesMangoes have a moderate water footprint of 26–52 inches per year. However, their irrigation requirements mean their environmental impact is negative at this stage. 
Agrochemical usage for mangoesMangoes’ agrochemical use is moderate. Their pesticide use is low, but their fertilizer use is high. In particular, their use of nitrogen fertilizer is harmful to the environment.
Carbon footprint of mangoesMangoes have a carbon footprint of 0.21 kg (0.46 lbs) CO2e per pound of mangoes. The main factors that contribute to this number are the mechanized production process, the usage of non-biodegradable/non-recyclable materials in packaging, and aviation transportation.
Waste generation of mangoesMangoes’ waste generation is fairly high. This is mainly because they use styrofoam packaging, which has a low recycling rate.

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 all the important aspects of mangoes’ environmental impact.

What Are the Land Requirements for Mangoes

They also use monoculture farming practices which cause deforestation, and they have a longer than average growth duration so, they require a lot of resources to grow. 

Illustration of global land use for food production
Our World in Data: Global land use for food production

Growing mangoes has a lot of variables that contribute to their environmental impact. The amount of land they use, the way in which they grow (tree, vine, root, etc.), and the amount of time they take to grow will all contribute to their environmental impact. 

How do the land requirements of mangoes impact their environmental footprint?

In short, the fact that mangoes grow in monocultures, have a low land yield, and contribute to deforestation, point to a fairly negative environmental impact at this stage. 

What Is the Water Footprint of Mangoes

Mangoes have a moderate water footprint of 26–52 inches per year. However, their irrigation requirements mean their environmental impact is negative at this stage. 

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 mangoes’ water impact. 

How does the water footprint of mangoes impact their environmental footprint?

In short, mangoes’ need for significant irrigation leads to them having a moderately negative environmental impact at this stage, though they are light on pesticides. 

What Is the Agrochemical Usage for Mangoes

Mangoes’ agrochemical use is moderate. Their pesticide use is low, but their fertilizer use is high. In particular, their use of nitrogen fertilizer is harmful to the environment.

Pesticides and fertilizers 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 mangoes’ pesticide and fertilizer rates affect their environmental impact. 

How does the pesticide and fertilizer usage of mangoes impact their environmental footprint?

In short, the use of nitrogen as a fertilizer is harmful to the environment, despite the low pesticide use of mangoes. 

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Mangoes

Mangoes have a carbon footprint of 0.21 kg (0.46 lbs) CO2e per pound of mangoes. The main factors that contribute to this number are the mechanized production process, the usage of non-biodegradable/non-recyclable materials in packaging, and aviation transportation.

Illustration of global greenhouse gas emissions from food production
Our World in Data: Global greenhouse gas emissions from food production

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 mangoes 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 mangoes breaks down and contributes to their environmental impact. 

How does the carbon footprint of mangoes impact their environmental footprint?

  • What is the overall carbon footprint of mangoes: The overall carbon footprint of mangoes is 0.21 kg (0.46 lbs) CO2e per pound of mangoes. This means that for every pound of mangoes produced, 0.21kg of carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. This is a below-average carbon footprint among fruits. 
  • What are the main contributors to the carbon footprint of mangoes: The main factors that contribute to mangoes’ carbon footprint are aviation transport, styrofoam packaging, and energy-consuming processing. Besides these factors, the growth practices are actually fairly carbon-conscious.
  • Which life-cycle stage of mangoes has the highest carbon footprint: The life cycle stage that contributes the most to mangoes’ carbon footprint is transportation. This is because, despite being grown in North America, they are typically transported by air

In short, mangoes have a fairly small carbon footprint among fruits, despite their use of air transport and styrofoam packaging. 

Related: Check out our full article on “What Is the Carbon Footprint of Mangoes? A Life-Cycle Analysis” to find out all about the carbon footprint of mangoes and how each stage of their life-cycle contributes to it (plus, what you can do to reduce your carbon footprint when shopping for mangoes).

What Is the Waste Generation of Mangoes

Mangoes’ waste generation is fairly high. This is because they use styrofoam packaging, which has a low recycling rate. 

When fruit waste, either packaging or organic materials, is disposed of, they 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 mango waste affects the environment. 

How does the waste generation of mangoes impact their environmental footprint?

In short, the use of packaging materials like cardboard and styrofoam, as well as low composting rates, mean mangoes have a negative environmental impact at this stage.

What Have Been Historical Environmental Issues Connected to the Mango Industry

Mangoes have partaken in some farming practices that have harmed the environment a lot over the years. These include deforestation and groundwater pollution from nitrogen fertilizer. 

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, most fruits have left a path of destruction. Let’s see how mangoes have fared throughout history.

What have been the key historical environmental issues of the mango industry?

  • How much land has been lost because of mango production: The mango industry has used a significant amount of land to produce mangoes, which has caused deforestation. However, mangoes can also have a positive impact in this department. Mango trees are frequently cited as a leading tree in the fight against deforestation
  • Which wildlife species have been negatively impacted or displaced because of mango production: Mangoes’ use of harmful fertilizers like nitrogen have been very harmful to animals. Land clearing to create mango farms has also contributed to global deforestation. 
  • Have water sources and soil been contaminated because of mango production: Groundwater sources are greatly affected by any pesticides and fertilizer use, especially nitrogen. Through these chemicals, mango farms have impacted water sources all over the world. 

In short, the mango industry has a long history of causing harm to the environment, mainly through their use of nitrogen fertilizer and their land requirements. 

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. 

Illustration of the environmental impacts of food and agriculture
Our World in Data: The environmental impacts of food and agriculture

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 mangoes, while still enjoying them. You can also consider offsetting your personal and mangoes-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 Mangoes

In this section, we give you a short list of ways you can reduce the negative environmental effects of mangoes, based on those parts of the life-cycle of mangoes that would otherwise most negatively impact the environment:

  1. Buy lightly packaged mangoes: Styrofoam packaging is one of the worst offenders when it comes to mango waste. If you want to reduce your environmental impact in this area, then you should make the effort to buy mangoes with as little packaging as possible. You can also try buying them from a local farmer’s market, especially if you live in Florida or California, which tend to use less packaging
  2. Buy local mangoes: Generally, if you are buying mangoes grown in your state, they won’t be brought in by air, but by truck. This can greatly reduce one of the biggest contributors to their carbon footprint. If you live in a mango-producing state, this won’t be too hard. However, if you live in a Northern state, consider seeking out trucked or shipped mangoes to cut down on your aviation footprint. 
  3. Compost and recycle: Another major contributor to the mango’s 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 using cardboard waste as roughage.

Following some of these methods can really help you to cut down on your environmental impact of eating mangoes. 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!

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 mangoes!

Carbon footprint: the amount of greenhouse gases 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 mangoes:

Illustration of carbon emissions from food
Our World in Data: Emissions from food alone would take us past 1.5°C or 2°C this century

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 mangoes. 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 mangoes – 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 mangoes, 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.

Related: Check out our full guide on “What Are the Best Carbon Offsets for Individuals: Complete 2024 List” to find the best carbon offset providers for your personal carbon emissions and those associated to, e.g., eating mangoes.

Final Thoughts

Mangoes may be a classic summer treat, but there are lots of aspects of their production process that are very harmful to the environment. Using nitrogen fertilizer and styrofoam packaging, planting in monocultures, and requiring significant irrigation all add up to a fairly negative environmental impact. However, opting out of packaging and trying to buy local mangoes can help you to mitigate some of their worst environmental effects and consume them more responsibly!

Stay impactful,

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