The Environmental Impact of Mangoes: From Farm to Table
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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:
- 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 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 Factors
|Land requirements for mangoes
|Mangoes 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 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.
|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.
|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.
|Waste generation of mangoes
|Mangoes’ 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.
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?
- What is the land usage of mangoes: Mangoes yield around 5–22 tons per hectare. This is on the lower end of average for fruits, with bananas yielding up to 100 tons per hectare. This less economical yield means that each mango needs more square footage than the average fruit. Furthermore, many parts of the world have seen significant deforestation due to mango farming. For example, Cambodia has allowed mango farmers to take over massive amounts of land, of which they often take more than they are allowed. These factors combine to create a negative environmental impact.
- Where and how are mangoes grown: Mangoes grow on trees. Trees have natural carbon-storing qualities, which offset some of the carbon emissions of mango production. This is very good news for their environmental impact. Most mangoes grow in India, however, they also grow in monocultures. Monocultures are large groups of the same plant that lack biodiversity and thus are bad for wildlife and soil microbes. So, while they can sequester carbon, they also have a negative impact through monocultures.
- How does the mango industry affect the loss of habitable land: Mangoes aren’t very densely planted, meaning that their farming can use and harm a lot of land. However, this is changing. Indian farmers are adopting a sustainable technique known as the “ultra high-density planting method”, which helps to minimize water and land requirements for mangoes. Therefore, their environmental impact is decreasing.
- How does the mango industry affect wildlife and biodiversity: Cambodia has had a booming mango industry in recent years, mainly because of import demand from China. However, this means that Cambodian wildlife are being threatened with habitat loss due to deforestation from this fast-growing industry.
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?
- What is the overall water usage of mangoes: Mangoes need around 26–52 inches per year. This is an average water requirement relative to other fruits. However, they are generally grown in Mexico which has a low rainfall. Therefore, mangoes require irrigation to meet their water needs.
- What is the green water footprint of mangoes: The green water footprint is the amount of water from precipitation stored in the soil and used by plants for growth. Mangoes consumed in the US mainly come from Mexico. Mexico gets around 28 inches of rain per year. Because mangoes require more water than this, most rain in the region will be going toward mangoes.
- What is the blue water footprint of mangoes: The blue water footprint is the amount of water sourced from surface (such as rivers or lakes) or groundwater resources. Since Mexico only gets 28 inches of rain per year, which doesn’t quite cover mangoes’ 26–52 inch requirement, mangoes need significant irrigation. Irrigation has a negative environmental impact, due mainly to its high carbon footprint and modification of groundwater balance.
- What is the gray water footprint of mangoes: 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. Mangoes have very minimal pesticide use. This means that they avoid the harm to groundwater, and thus additional water for cleanup, that pesticides can cause.
- How does the mango industry affect freshwater and ocean pollution: The mango industry has been found to have a significant impact on surface and groundwater, causing pollution with fertilizer use.
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?
- What is the pesticide usage of mangoes: Mangoes have very low pesticide use among fruits. Thus, they avoid some of the negative environmental impact that pesticides can have.
- What is the fertilizer usage of mangoes: Mangoes are typically fertilized with a combination of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. While potassium tends to have a minimal environmental impact, nitrogen is actually very harmful to the environment.
- Are there any known issues connected to the agrochemical usage for mangoes: Mangoes’ use of nitrogen fertilizer has many known environmental issues. These include air pollution which can harm human health and affect plant growth.
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.
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.
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?
- What is the packaging of mangoes: Mangoes use several different types of packaging, such as cardboard boxes, straw, wool, and styrofoam. Cardboard contributes to deforestation, as does wool. Whereas styrofoam emits a large amount of carbon during manufacturing. All these types of packaging have highly negative environmental impacts during their production.
- How is the packaging of mangoes disposed of: Many of the materials used in packaging can be recycled, but have different recycling rates. Cardboard has a high recycling rate at 89%, whereas styrofoam has an extremely low recycling rate at around 11%. Therefore, most mango packaging tends to end up in landfills. Landfills damage the environment in a number of ways, including carbon emissions, soil pollution, and harm to wildlife.
- How are mangoes disposed of: Mango skins and pits are generally not eaten. They can be composted, but given the very low composting rates of 4%, they typically aren’t. This means that most organic mango waste ends up in landfills. Besides the generally negative environmental impact of landfills, food waste is especially harmful because it generates methane, a greenhouse gas.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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 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.
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!
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