The Environmental Impact of Raspberries: From Farm to Table

The Environmental Impact of Raspberries: From Farm to Table

By
Teresa Mersereau

Read Time:19 Minutes

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Raspberries come in over 200 varieties, making them a diverse and popular fruit. Moreover, raspberry production is ever-growing. For example, almost a million tons of the fruit were grown in 2021, which is an increase of 34% since 2011. But the materials and resources required to create and distribute raspberries can also have a serious impact on the environment. So, we had to ask: What is the environmental impact of raspberries?

Raspberries have a moderately negative environmental impact. This is mainly because they use nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides, and plastic packaging. However, they also have a low carbon footprint and contribute to land restoration. 

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

Here’s How We Assessed the Environmental Impact of Raspberries

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

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

Here’s the Overall Environmental Impact of Raspberries

The overall environmental impact of raspberries is moderately negative. The main factors that contribute to this are their low land yield, as well as their use of irrigation, pesticides, nitrogen fertilizer, and plastic packaging. 

Raspberries have some positive qualities when it comes to environmental impact. They often contribute to land restoration projects and have a fairly low carbon footprint. However, they do still have a significant amount of damaging qualities. 

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

Key Assessment FactorsEnvironmental Impact
Land requirements for raspberriesRaspberries’ land requirements are very high. However, they also have more eco-friendly farming practices and sequester carbon well. Therefore, their impact is minimally negative at this stage. 
Water footprint of raspberriesRaspberries have a moderate water requirement of 50 inches of water per year. This is heightened by their use of irrigation and pesticides, which contribute to water pollution at a rate akin to many other fruits, thus rendering their environmental impact moderate at this stage. 
Agrochemical usage for raspberriesRaspberries’ agrochemical usage is high. Pair this with their use of the particularly harmful nitrogen fertilizer and they have a very negative environmental impact at this stage. 
Carbon footprint of raspberriesRaspberries have a fairly low carbon footprint of 0.15kg (0.33lb) of CO2e per pound of raspberries. This footprint is mainly caused by their high-growth resources, including land use, irrigation, and pesticides. They also require plastic packaging and refrigerated transportation from Mexico. 
Waste generation of raspberriesThe waste generation of raspberries is significant. This is mainly because they use plastic packaging, which is very damaging to the environment. 

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 raspberries’ environmental impact.

What Are the Land Requirements for Raspberries

Raspberries’ land requirements are very high. However, they also have more eco-friendly farming practices and sequester carbon well. Therefore, their impact is minimally negative at this stage. 

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

Growing raspberries 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 raspberries impact their environmental footprint?

In short, raspberries’ extremely low land yield means that they use more resources than other fruits. However, their gentler effect on lands and carbon-sequestering properties mean that they only have a small negative impact at this stage. 

What Is the Water Footprint of Raspberries

Raspberries have a moderate water requirement of 50 inches of water per year. This is heightened by their use of irrigation and pesticides, which contribute to water pollution at a rate akin to many other fruits, thus rendering their environmental impact moderate 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 of raspberries’ water impact.

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

In short, raspberries’ use of significant irrigation, pesticides, and plastic packaging are all very damaging to waterways. 

What Is the Agrochemical Usage for Raspberries

Raspberries’ agrochemical usage is high. Pair this with their use of the particularly harmful nitrogen fertilizer and they have a very negative environmental impact at this stage. 

Pesticides and fertilizers are agrochemicals that can have a significant negative 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 raspberries’ pesticide and fertilizer rates affect their environmental impact.

How does the agrochemical usage of raspberries impact their environmental footprint?

In short, the amount and types of agrochemicals used by raspberries have a very negative impact on the environment. 

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Raspberries

Raspberries have a fairly low carbon footprint of 0.15kg (0.33lb) of CO2e per pound of raspberries. This footprint is mainly caused by their high-growth resources, including land use, irrigation, and pesticides. They also require plastic packaging and refrigerated transportation from Mexico. 

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 strawberries 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 raspberries breaks down and contributes to their environmental impact.

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

  • What is the overall carbon footprint of raspberries: The overall carbon footprint of raspberries is 0.15kg (0.33lb) of CO2e per pound of raspberries. This means that for every pound of raspberries, 0.15kg of carbon is released into the atmosphere. This is a fairly low carbon footprint compared to other fruits. 
  • What are the main contributors to the carbon footprint of raspberries: The main factors that contribute to raspberries’ carbon footprint are their low land yields, irrigation requirements, high pesticide use, plastic packaging, and refrigerated transportation
  • Which life-cycle stage of raspberries has the highest carbon footprint: The stage that contributes the most to raspberries’ carbon footprint is the growth period, mainly because of the higher-than-average resources needed to grow raspberries.

In short, while raspberries do have some high-emitting stages in their life cycle, they still maintain a below-average carbon footprint among fruits. 

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

What Is the Waste Generation of Raspberries

The waste generation of raspberries is significant. This is mainly because they use plastic packaging, which is very damaging to the environment. 

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 raspberries’ waste affects the environment.

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

  • What is the packaging of raspberries: Raspberries are typically packaged in plastic clamshells. Plastic has a very negative environmental impact during its production process. Therefore, raspberries’ negative environmental impact is raised significantly by using plastic.
  • How is the packaging of raspberries disposed of: Plastic packaging has very low recycling rates, at around 9%. This means that the majority of raspberry packaging is ending up in landfills. Landfills cause significant environmental damage, including land clearance and chemical pollution. Furthermore, plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose. The quantity and longevity of raspberries in landfills contribute very negatively to their environmental impact.
  • How are raspberries disposed of: Blackberries are generally consumed whole, and as such, they don’t have significant food waste. However, raspberries have an extremely short shelf life of only around 2–3 days, which is much shorter than other fruits, and even other berries. This may lead to them being thrown out more easily, but the waste is small.

In short, raspberries’ use of plastic packaging is the main driving force of their waste impact. They also have a short shelf life, which may lead to more organic waste. 

What Have Been Historical Environmental Issues Connected to the Raspberries Industry

The raspberry industry has historically had a mixed impact. It has both been involved in land restoration projects, as well as damage to ecosystems from pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers. 

All fruits have had a complex journey 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 raspberries have fared throughout history. 

What have been the key environmental issues of the raspberries industry?

  • How much land has been lost because of raspberry production: Raspberry production has not had a significant impact on land loss over the years. In fact, raspberry bushes have been used frequently as a way of restoring previously damaged lands. Therefore, the raspberry industry has actually been able to have a positive impact in some ways. 
  • Which wildlife species have been negatively impacted or displaced because of raspberry production: Pesticide use has had a significantly negative historical impact on wildlife populations. Pesticides get into soil and water, rising up the food chain and being consumed by many different species. This has caused wildlife to have limited or contaminated food sources, resulting in declining populations. Raspberries’ high use of pesticides has been particularly damaging to wildlife over the years. 
  • Have water sources and soil been contaminated because of raspberry production: Nitrogen fertilizer is particularly damaging to waterways. The algae that are promoted in their growth can be very damaging to aquatic life and can spread easily to nearby rivers, streams, and lakes. Raspberries’ heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer means that they have caused some serious harm to waterways over the years. 

In short, the historical impact of raspberries has consisted of both land restoration, as well as damage to wildlife, leaving them somewhere in the middle. 

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 raspberries, while still enjoying them. You can also consider offsetting your personal and raspberry-related carbon emissions, which will 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 Raspberries

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

  1. Buy raspberries from the Northwest: Although the majority of the US’s raspberries come from California, there is still a significant amount that come from Pacific Northwest states like Oregon and Washington. These states get far more rain per year than California, with Oregon getting up to 90 inches per year, and Washington getting up to 100. Raspberries grown in these states will need little to no irrigation, which can help you cut down on some of the more damaging effects of irrigation. 
  2. Buy organic raspberries: Another major contributor to raspberries’ environmental impact is their high pesticide use. Organic farms generally avoid high amounts of chemical pesticides and nitrogen fertilizers and so they are good to support if you want to reduce your pesticide and fertilizer impact.
  3. Consume your raspberries as soon as possible: The low shelf life of raspberries means that they tend to be thrown out more often than other fruits. If you make the effort to eat your raspberries as soon as you buy them, you will mitigate the risk that they will end up in a landfill. 
  4. Avoid plastic packaging: Although most raspberries come in plastic clamshells, there are still some that come in cardboard cartons. Cardboard can still cause some environmental damages, but it is more widely recycled than plastic and can even be composted. Thus, you will be reducing your overall environmental impact if you choose cardboard over plastic packaging.

Following some of these methods can really help you to cut down on your environmental impact of eating raspberries. 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 raspberries 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 raspberry agriculture.

In the table below are some of the best environmental charities that work in the areas where raspberries production has affected the environment—and beyond:

Overall environmental impactBest charities that fight to protect our environment
Land requirementsBest charities for reforestation
Best wildlife conservation charities
Best charities for protecting the Amazon rainforest
Best charities that protect our national parks
Water footprintBest charities that fight for clean water
Best charities that help conserve our rivers
Best charities to save our oceans
Agrochemical usageBest charities that help farmers
Best charities for helping farm animals
Carbon footprintBest charities for climate change
Best carbon offsets for individuals
Waste generationBest charities that fight to reduce food waste
Best charities that fight to end plastic pollution

Though it is helpful to reduce the environmental impact of your personal raspberries 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 raspberries!

“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 raspberries:

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 raspberries. 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 raspberries—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 raspberries, 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 with, e.g., eating raspberries.

Final Thoughts

Raspberries have a long way to go before they can be said to have a positive impact on the environment. They use many harmful practices like nitrogen fertilizers, high amounts of pesticides, irrigation, and plastic packaging. However, there are still many things you can do as the consumer to reduce this impact, such as buying organic raspberries or avoiding plastic packaging. You can also support organizations fighting ecological destruction. If you try these things, you will be able to greatly reduce your negative impact from raspberries. 

Stay impactful,

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