What Is the Carbon Footprint of Apricots? A Life-Cycle Analysis

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Apricots? A Life-Cycle Analysis

By
Teresa Mersereau

Read Time:16 Minutes

CLICK TO
SUBSCRIBE

follow follow

Impactful Ninja is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more Learn more .

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Why do we add these product links?

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.

What do these affiliate links mean for you?
  1. First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you.

  2. When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you.

  3. 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.

What do these affiliate links mean for us?
  1. When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it.

  2. When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you).

  3. 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.

What does this mean for me personally?

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,

Apricots are a booming American industry, with more than 40,000 tons produced in each year. They also happen to be a delicious treat, popular in jams or as a dried fruit. But, there are also certain components of the apricot production process that can have significant carbon emissions. So, we had to ask: What is the carbon footprint of apricots?

Apricots have a low carbon footprint of 0.16kg (0.36lb) of CO2e per pound of apricots. This is mainly because of their high pesticide use, refrigerated trucking, mechanized harvesting, and styrofoam packaging. 

In this article, we will look at the full life-cycle of apricots, investigating how each stage contributes to their carbon footprint. We will go through all of the main stages of apricots’ production—starting with growth and then going through harvesting, processing, transportation, and ending at waste disposal—and will evaluate how each stage contributes to apricots’ carbon footprint. So, let’s get into the carbon footprint of apricots!

Here’s How We Assessed the Carbon Footprint of Apricots

The carbon footprint is one of the ways we measure the effects of our human-induced global climate change. It primarily focuses on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with consumption, but also includes other emissions such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons, and is generally expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e).

“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 apricots:

To understand the carbon footprint of apricots, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials.

Here’s the Overall Carbon Footprint of Apricots

The overall carbon footprint of apricots is low at 0.16kg (0.36lb) of CO2e per pound of apricots. The main factors that contribute to this are pesticide use, styrofoam packaging, and refrigerated transportation. 

There are many things that apricots do right in terms of their carbon footprint. For instance, many of them are produced in the US. They also use little irrigation, and have average yields per hectare. However, there are still many things that contribute significantly to apricots’ carbon footprint. 

The carbon footprint of apricots0.16kg (0.36lb) of CO2e per pound of apricots

So, let’s have a look at each stage of the LCA of apricots!

The life-cycle stages of apricotsEach stage’s carbon footprint
Growing of apricotsThe carbon footprint of growing apricots is moderate. This is mainly because of their moderate land usage and growth duration, as well as their high pesticide use. 
Harvesting, processing, and packaging of apricotsThe carbon footprint of harvesting, processing, and packaging apricots is high. This is caused by their mechanized harvesting methods, refrigeration needs, and excessive packaging. 
Transporting of apricotsThe carbon footprint of transporting apricots is fairly low because they are produced in the US. Although high-emitting refrigerated trucks are used in the transport process. 
End-of-life of apricotsThe carbon footprint of the end-of-life of apricots is high. This is mainly because of low composting rates and the use of styrofoam packaging. 

The stage that contributes the most to apricots’ carbon footprint is harvesting, processing, and packaging. The energy required to power the harvesting machines and their heavy use of packaging are the main reasons for this stage being so high. End-of-life is the other major contributing stage, also because of excessive packaging. 

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Growing Apricots

The carbon footprint of growing apricots is moderate. This is mainly because of their moderate land usage and growth duration, as well as their high pesticide use. 

The process of growing apricots generally has a moderate carbon footprint, depending on the methods used. Factors like the amount of irrigation, deforestation, and pesticide use can all contribute to the overall impact of the growth stage.

Which factors impact the carbon footprint of growing apricots?

  • How do apricots grow: Apricots grow on trees in orchards. Since trees have natural carbon sequestering properties, this stage has a very low carbon footprint. 
  • What is the growth duration of apricots: The longer the growth frame, the higher the carbon footprint because more resources are required to sustain the plants. Apricot trees take around 3–4 years to bear fruit. Individual apricots tend to take 3–4 months to go from flower to fruit. This is fairly average amongst fruits. So this stage contributes moderately to apricots’ overall carbon footprint. 
  • What is the land usage of apricots: When fruits use less land, they require less deforestation and resources to sustain them. Apricots yield around 13–25 tons per hectare, which is fairly average for fruits. For example, mangoes, strawberries, and clementines are all in this range. Therefore, this stage contributes moderately to apricots’ overall carbon footprint. 
  • What is the water usage of apricots: Apricot trees need around 25–30 inches of water per year. Most American apricots come from California, which gets around 22 inches of rain per year. This means that a small amount of irrigation is needed to keep apricots sufficiently hydrated. Because irrigation has a significant carbon footprint, this stage is a moderate contributor to apricots’ carbon footprint. 
  • What is the pesticide and fertilizer usage of apricots: Apricots have significant pesticide use. In a 2019 study, 35% of apricots were found to contain hazardous pesticides. Pesticides have a high carbon footprint, which means that this stage contributes significantly to apricots’ carbon footprint. 

There are many things that apricots have going for them during the growth stage, such as carbon sequestration and low irrigation. However, if you want to lower your footprint even further during this stage, you should buy organic apricots to cut down on pesticides. 

In short, between their high pesticide use and potential irrigation requirements, apricots can take a fair amount of resources to grow. Thus, their carbon footprint at this stage is moderate. 

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Harvesting, Processing, and Packaging Apricots

The carbon footprint of harvesting, processing, and packaging apricots is high. This is caused by their mechanized harvesting methods, refrigeration needs, and excessive packaging. 

The next major stage in the life-cycle of apricots’ carbon emissions is harvesting, processing, and packaging. This involves picking the fruit, checking it for damage, sorting it, and getting it ready for distribution. This stage can contribute greatly to the carbon footprint of the fruit depending on the processes used.

Which factors impact the carbon footprint of harvesting, processing, and packaging apricots?

Apricots are certainly not the most carbon-conscious when it comes to harvesting and processing. If you want to reduce your impact at this stage, try to buy apricots with no packaging to cut down on those emissions. 

In short, the energy required to harvest and refrigerate apricots, as well as their packaging, means that the harvesting, processing, and packaging stages have considerable emissions. 

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Transporting Apricots

The carbon footprint of transporting apricots is fairly low because they are produced in the US. Although high-emitting refrigerated trucks are used in the transport process.

Apricots’ journeys have just started when they are packaged. They then have to travel the distance between the farm and the grocery store. The distance, as well as the method through which they have to travel, are the two most important factors in determining the carbon footprint of their transportation.

Which factors impact the carbon footprint of transporting apricots?

  • Where are apricots grown: Around 75% of American apricots come from California. Since the majority are domestically produced, they have lower transport times. However, it is also important to note that the US population is skewed east. Most Americans then, will still be eating apricots that have traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles. As a result, transportation has a moderate effect on apricots’ carbon footprint, depending on your location. 
  • How are apricots transported: Apricots are transported in refrigerated trucks. These trucks have higher emissions than regular trucks. Therefore, apricots have a high carbon footprint at this stage. 

Domestic production helps keep apricots’ transportation footprint low. If you want to reduce your impact more at this stage, you can try to buy apricots grown in your own state to cut down on transport distances. 

In short, growing apricots in the US means they don’t have to travel too far. However, the use of refrigeration means this stage has a moderate carbon footprint overall. 

What Is the Carbon Footprint of the End-of-Life of Apricots

The carbon footprint of the end-of-life of apricots is high. This is mainly because of low composting rates and the use of styrofoam packaging.

Apricots’ carbon footprint journey isn’t done after you consume them. In fact, one of the most important factors that will determine the overall carbon footprint of apricots is how their waste is disposed of. Here, we will look at how this stage in the process affects apricots’ carbon footprint. 

Which factors impact the carbon footprint of the end-of-life of apricots?

  • How are apricots disposed of: Apricots are stone fruits. The pit inside can’t be consumed, but it can be composted. Unfortunately, though, only around 4% of food waste is actually composted. This means that the majority of apricot waste ends up in landfill. Furthermore, when food waste goes into landfill, it actually creates a harmful greenhouse gas called methane. Therefore, apricots’ emissions are high at this stage. 
  • How is the packaging of apricots disposed of: Apricots use cardboard and styrofoam in their packaging. Cardboard has a very high recycling rate, at around 89%. However, styrofoam has an extremely low recycling rate, at around 1%. Even worse, styrofoam takes around 500 years to break down effectively. The carbon footprint at this stage then depends on the kind of packaging used, with cardboard being much more carbon-conscious than styrofoam. 

Packaging is the biggest contributor to apricots’ carbon footprint at this stage. To help reduce packaging emissions, try to buy loose apricots with no packaging. 

In short, the difficulty in disposing of styrofoam, as well as very low composting rates amongst food waste, means that apricots have a high carbon footprint at this stage. 

How Does the Carbon Footprint of Apricots Compare to Other Types of Food

Apricots have a lower carbon footprint compared to other fruits, but a more moderate footprint when compared to foods in general. This is mainly because, when kilocalories are taken into account, apricots are less calorie-dense and therefore less carbon efficient. 

Apricots have a moderate carbon footprint compared to other foods, largely due to their low calorie content. When assessing the carbon footprint of a particular food, it is always important to place it in the context of other foods. This can help you to see the relative impact they have and assist you in making decisions between different foods based on their carbon footprint. In this next part of the article, we will show you how apricots compare to other foods in terms of carbon footprint.

How Does the Carbon Footprint of Apricots Compare to Other Types of Fruits

Apricots have a fairly low carbon footprint compared to other fruits. Fruits in general tend to have lower carbon footprints than many other foods, like dairy products. However, there is still a lot of variation between them. Different transportation distances, the density of orchards, variations in growing methods, and pesticide use can all add up to contribute to their carbon footprints. Here, we will look at how apricots compare specifically to other fruits in terms of carbon footprint. 

FruitsCarbon Footprint per lbsCalories per lbsCarbon Footprint per Calories
Avocados0.85 kg (1.9 lb) of CO2e per pound of avocados725 calories per pound1.17kg (2.57lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of avocados 
Grapes0.64 kg (1.42 lbs) of CO2e per pound of grapes300 calories per pound2.13kg (4.7lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of grapes
Cantaloupe0.58kg (1.3lb) of CO2e per pound of cantaloupe154 calories per pound3.77kg (8.31lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of cantaloupes
Kiwis0.56kg (1.24lb) of CO2e per pound of kiwis277 calories per pound2.02kg (4.45lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of kiwis
Blueberries0.45kg (1lb) of CO2e per pound of blueberries256 calories per pound1.75kg (3.86lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of blueberries
Plums0.4 kg (0.88 lb) CO2e per pound of plums209 calories per pound1.91kg (4.21lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of plums
Strawberries0.39kg (0.88lb) of CO2e per pound of strawberries145 calories per pound2.69kg (5.93lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of strawberries
Pomegranates0.39kg (0.87lb) of CO2e per pound of pomegranates375 calories per pound1.04kg (2.29lb) of CO2e per pound of pomegranates
Figs0.3kg (0.68lb) of CO2e per pound of figs333 calories per pound0.9kg (1.98lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of figs
Papayas0.3kg (0.67lb) of CO2e per pound of papayas195 calories per pound1.54kg (3.4lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of papayas
Oranges0.3kg (0.66 lb) CO2e per pound of oranges213 calories per pound1.41kg (3.11lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of oranges
Dates0.27kg (0.6lb) of CO2e per pound of dates1,300 calories per pound0.21kg (0.46lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of dates
Apples0.24 kg (0.53 lb) of CO2e per pound of apples236 calories per pound1.02kg (2.25lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of apples
Pears0.23kg (0.52 lb) of CO2e per pound of pears259 calories per pound0.89kg (1.96lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of pears
Bananas0.21 kg (0.48 lb) of CO2e per pound of banana404 calories per pound0.52kg (1.15lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of bananas
Mangoes0.21 kg (0.46 lb) CO2e per pound of mangoes272 calories per pound0.77lb (1.7lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of mangoes
Cherries0.19kg (0.41 lb) of CO2e per pound of cherries227 calories per pound0.84kg (1.85lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of cherries
Limes0.18kg (0.39lb) of CO2e per pound of limes136 calories per pound1.32kg (2.91lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of limes
Peaches0.17kg (0.38lb) CO2e per pound of peaches176 calories per pound0.97kg (2.14lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of peaches
Apricots0.16kg (0.36lb) of CO2e per pound of apricots218 calories per pound0.73kg (1.61lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of apricots
Raspberries0.15kg (0.33lb) of CO2e per pound of raspberries240 calories per pound0.63kg (1.39lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of raspberries
Pineapples0.09 kg (0.20 lb) of CO2e per pound of pineapple227 calories per pound0.4kg (0.88lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of pineapples
Lemons0.09kg (0.19lb) CO2e per pound of lemons132 calories per pound0.68kg (1.5lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of lemons
Grapefruit0.08kg (0.18lb) of CO2e per pound of grapefruit191 calories per pound0.42kg (0.93lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of grapefruits
Blackberries0.07kg (0.15lb) of CO2e per pound of blackberries195 calories per pound0.36kg (0.79lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of blackberries
Clementines0.06 kg (0.13 lb) CO2e per pound of clementines213 calories per pound0.28kg (0.62kg) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of clementines
Watermelons0.05kg (0.11 lb) of CO2e per pound of watermelon136 calories per pound0.37kg (0.82lb) of CO2e per 1,000 calories of watermelons

Apricots fall in the middle to lower side of fruits in terms of their carbon footprint. They have around â…• the emissions of avocados, the biggest emitter. They are also significantly below the average of 2.7. Additionally, they are the lowest emitters of the stone family, being less than both peaches and plums. However, they still have higher emissions than plenty of fruits, such as watermelons, pineapples, and raspberries. So, while apricots are on the lower end, there are still quite a few more carbon-conscious fruits. 

How Does the Carbon Footprint of Apricots Compare to Other Types of Food in General

Apricots have a moderate carbon footprint when kilocalories are taken into account. This is mainly because they have a smaller calorie density than some other fruits, raising their carbon footprint when kilocalories are taken into account. 

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), foods are often compared in terms of emissions per 1,000 kilocalories (as opposed to their weight in lbs or kg).

Illustration of greenhouse gas emissions per 1000 kilocalories
Our World in Data: Greenhouse Gas Emissions per 1,000 kilocalories

Since apricots have a similar overall carbon footprint and a very similar calorie count per pound to raspberries, we can assume apricots will fall in a similar place on this list:

  • Apricots have around 220 calories per pound and raspberries have around 240, so their emissions per kilocalorie are comparable. 
  • Because of this, apricots fall alongside berries on the list of all fruits, coming in around the middle. 
  • We can see that they are higher than bananas because, despite apricots having a lower overall carbon footprint, they have lower calorie density. 
  • Bananas have around 400 calories per pound, making them far more carbon-dense than apricots. 
  • Consequently, they have a lower kilocalorie-inclusive carbon footprint.

How Can You Reduce and Offset Your Personal Carbon Footprint

There are many things you can do to cut down on how your apricot consumption impacts the planet. By carefully considering your consumption habits to reduce carbon emissions and offsetting your carbon through carbon-extraction schemes, you can consume apricot without having a large negative impact on the earth. 

Some of the carbon risks of apricots highlighted in this article may be somewhat concerning. However, the good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to lower your carbon emissions while still eating apricots. Purchasing organic or locally-grown apricots and disposing of the waste efficiently can help with this. Furthermore, you can consider emission offsets, which work to extract carbon from the atmosphere. Here, we will walk you through how to accomplish both of these things.

How Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Shopping for Apricots

Before you start worrying about your offsets, you might be wondering how you can stop producing carbon in the first place through your apricot consumption. One of the best ways to do this is to look at the parts of the apricot process that have the highest carbon footprint and start there. In this section, we give you a short list of ways you can reduce your apricot carbon footprint, so you can continue consuming apricots without the high carbon price tag.

  1. Choose low packaging apricots: Packaging, especially that made of styrofoam, is one of the biggest contributors to apricots’ carbon footprint. If you want to reduce it, you should choose apricots that don’t come with packaging. This will help you to cut down on production emissions to make the packaging and on landfill impact. 
  2. Choose cardboard packaging: If you have to buy apricots with packaging, it is much better to buy cardboard packaging. It is far more commonly recycled, and thus it is far less likely to end up in landfills than styrofoam. 
  3. Buy organic apricots: Pesticides are another big contributor to apricots’ carbon footprint. Organic farms don’t use chemicals like pesticides and so buying organic apricots won’t have pesticides on them. This can help cut down on some of the emissions caused by pesticides. 
  4. Plant your own apricot tree: With transporting fruit, local is always better, so why not go as local as possible and grow an apricot tree right in your own backyard? It will help you grow almost net-zero carbon apricots, depending on the practices you use. And even better, you can use the pit as a seed, thus cutting down on food waste!

Following some of these methods can really help you to cut down on your apricot carbon emissions. None of these will bring your emissions down to zero, since there are always hidden carbon costs that may be outside of your control. But reduction is always better than nothing! However, if you do want to get your apricot emissions down to absolute zero, then you can look into carbon offsets.

How Can You Offset Your Personal Carbon Footprint

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 apricots. 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 apricots – 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 apricots, 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 apricots.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot to love about apricots. They have a low carbon footprint overall and are a great domestic fruit to enjoy. However, there are still a lot of ways you can help reduce their footprint even further. Buying local, organic, and low-packaging apricots can really help reduce your emissions across the board. Opting for some carbon offsets can also help you to get those emissions even lower. Choosing these options can be great steps toward becoming a more responsible apricot consumer.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Teresa

Sources

Photo of author
Did you like this article?

Get the 5-minute newsletter that makes reading impactful news enjoyable—packed with actionable insights to make a positive impact in your daily life.

Three Related Posts

One Unrelated Post