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

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

By
Grace Howarth

Read Time:13 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,

Celery is the tenth most popular vegetable in the US. It contains only six calories per serving and is known for its anti-inflammatory, and heart health benefits. It is also a great source of potassium, calcium, vitamin K, folate, and flavonoids. Yet, much less is shared about the environmental impact, and especially the carbon emissions of celery. So we had to ask: What is the carbon footprint of celery?

Celery has a low carbon footprint of 0.27 kg (0.60 lb) of CO2e per pound of produce, which makes it one of the lowest carbon-emitting vegetables. The largest contributor to this footprint is the use of polyethylene bags for packaging. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through the overall carbon emissions over the life-cycle of celery. From growing, to packaging, to transporting, you will learn how this vegetable affects the planet and discover some ways to reduce and offset the footprint. 

Here’s How We Assessed the Carbon Footprint of Celery

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 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 celery:

To understand the carbon footprint of celery, we must assess its 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 Celery

The overall carbon footprint of celery is 0.27 kg (0.60 lb) of CO2e per pound of produce, which is very low. In fact, celery is one of the least carbon-intensive crops to grow. So, you can enjoy plenty of celery, knowing that it has a very small impact on the environment!

Celery is one of the most popular vegetables, so it is important to know the carbon footprint associated with this vegetable. Then, you can make sustainable choices when it comes to your food.

The carbon footprint of celery0.27 kg (0.60 lb) of CO2e per pound of celery

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

The life-cycle stages of celeryEach stage’s carbon footprint
Growing of celeryThe carbon footprint of growing celery makes up 23.95% of the overall carbon footprint of celery. The main contributing factor is water usage as this vegetable requires a lot of water during the growing process. 
Harvesting, processing, and packaging of celeryThe carbon footprint of harvesting, processing, and packaging celery makes up 55.11% of the crop’s overall carbon footprint. This high percentage can be attributed to the polyethylene bags used for packaging. 
Transporting of celeryThe carbon footprint of transporting celery makes up 17.55% of the vegetable’s overall carbon footprint. This is largely down to the chilled transport conditions, and the food miles involved in getting celery across the US. 
End-of-life of celeryCelery makes up 6.5% of all salad waste. This is because it has a longer shelf life than other salad vegetables, like lettuce and tomatoes. So, the carbon footprint is low at this stage. However, it can be reduced further by only purchasing loose produce, as opposed to plastic-wrapped items, and composting the leftover waste.

These four stages can be broken down in more detail to understand why the carbon footprint of celery is low in comparison to other foods.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Growing Celery

The carbon footprint of growing celery makes up 23.95% of the overall carbon footprint of celery. The main contributing factor is water usage as this vegetable requires a lot of water during the growing process.

There are many factors which impact the carbon footprint of growing celery, such as land, water, and pesticide usage. 

Which factors impact the carbon footprint of growing celery?

In short, the growing process is a significant part of the overall carbon footprint of celery. The main factors for this are the long growing time, the amount of water needed, and pesticide usage.

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

The carbon footprint of harvesting, processing, and packaging celery makes up 55.11% of the crop’s overall carbon footprint.This high percentage can be attributed to the polyethylene bags used for packaging. 

The harvesting and processing of celery generally has quite a low carbon footprint, because it is harvested by hand and it’s often sold as fresh produce rather than processed. However, the use of non-recyclable packaging worsens the overall carbon footprint of celery. 

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

  • How are celery harvested: Celery is primarily hand-harvested, which produces lower emissions. However, celery grown for processing is usually harvested by machine. Celery fields are cut only once to ensure uniform crops, which is not ideal for carbon emissions. 
  • How are celery processed: After harvesting, celery is cooled and kept in cold storage, at around 0-2oC, until shipped. The energy needed to keep produce at this temperature has a significant impact on carbon emissions. However, most celery is sold as a fresh vegetable so excess resources are not wasted on processing. This method helps to offset the CO2 emissions for cold storage, meaning that the overall carbon footprint is low.
  • How are celery packaged: Celery is shipped in wooden or cardboard boxes, and is often sold in individual polyethylene bags. This plastic packaging is the main cause of over 55% of the crop’s overall carbon footprint. Try to avoid plastic packaging for a much more sustainable choice. 

In short, the plastic packaging of celery is a major part of celery’s carbon footprint, but it can be avoided by choosing plastic-free produce.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Transporting of Celery

The carbon footprint of transporting celery makes up 17.55% of the vegetable’s overall carbon footprint. This is largely down to the chilled transport conditions, and the food miles involved in getting celery across the US. 

Since the majority of celery is grown in the US, the carbon footprint is relatively low. 

Which factors impact the carbon footprint of transporting celery?

  • Where is celery grown: The US is the number one producer of celery worldwide. Most celery is grown in California and Michigan, with California growing 80% of the country’s crop. During summer, the milder temperatures in Michigan mean that the crop can thrive there when California is too hot. Because it is grown locally, and there are not a lot of exports from overseas, the carbon emissions are low for celery at this stage. 
  • How is celery transported: Celery is transported in chilled containers, which are needed to keep the crop as cold as possible without freezing. This use of refrigerators produces a higher carbon footprint. However, since the majority of celery consumed is native to the US, it does not have to be shipped from overseas. This keeps the carbon footprint lower than other vegetables, such as tomatoes.

In short, carbon emissions are released through the transportation and refrigeration needs of celery. However, luckily it is a native crop, which does not have to be imported, meaning that the carbon footprint is not overly inflated through transportation. 

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

Celery makes up 6.5% of all salad waste. This is because it has a longer shelf life than other salad vegetables, like lettuce and tomatoes. So, the carbon footprint is low at this stage. However, it can be reduced further by only purchasing loose produce, as opposed to plastic-wrapped items, and by composting the leftover waste.

Celery is a compostable product, which can create sustainable fertilizer. However, sadly it often ends up rotting in landfill. Cardboard cartons can be recycled or will biodegrade, but the plastic packaging is harder to recycle. Waste can be reduced by choosing to buy unwrapped produce, and trying to throw less food away. 

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

In short, food and plastic waste contribute to this plant’s carbon footprint. Steps can be taken to reduce your individual waste, through buying loose produce, and not over-consuming or throwing out celery. 

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

Celery has a low carbon footprint. In comparison to the ten most popular vegetables, it ranks as one of the lowest, alongside broccoli. So, if you are looking for a sustainable snack that is also super healthy, reach for a stick of celery.

Let’s see how celery ranks in comparison to other types of vegetables. 

How Does the Carbon Footprint of Celery Compare to Other Types of Vegetables

Celery is one of the must carbon-friendly vegetables, alongside broccoli. Celery has around a third of the carbon emissions associated with bell peppers and salad mix.

VegetablesCarbon Footprint
Cucumbers1.00 kg (2.2 lbs) of CO2e per pound of cucumbers
Tomatoes0.82 kg (1.8 lbs) CO2e per pound of tomatoes
Bell Peppers0.73 kg (1.6 lbs) of CO2e per pound of bell peppers
Chili Peppers0.73 kg (1.6 lbs) of CO2e per pound of chili peppers
Asparagus0.41 kg (0.9 lbs) of CO2e per pound of asparagus
Salad Mix0.41 kg (0.9 lbs) of CO2e per pound of salad mix
Spinach0.30 kg (0.67 lbs) of CO2e per pound of spinach
Cauliflower0.27 kg (0.6 lb) CO2e per pound of cauliflower
Broccoli0.27 kg (0.6 lb) CO2e per pound of broccoli
Celery0.27 kg (0.6 lb) of CO2e per pound of celery
Kale0.27 kg (0.6 lb) of CO2e per pound of kale
Corn0.27 kg (0.6 lb) of CO2e per pound of corn
Lettuce 0.26 kg (0.57 lb) of CO2e per pound of lettuce
Carrots0.18 kg (0.4 lb) of CO2e per pound of carrots
Garlic0.18 kg (0.4 lb) of CO2e per pound of garlic
Green Onions0.16 kg (0.32 lb) of CO2e per pound of green onions
Potatoes0.12 kg (0.27 lb) of CO2e per pound of potatoes
Mushrooms0.12 kg (0.27 lb) of CO2e per pound of mushrooms
Onions 0.11 kg (0.25 lb) of CO2e per pound of onions
Sweet potatoes0.10 kg (0.22 lb) of CO2e per pound of sweet potatoes
Cabbage0.07 kg (0.19 lb) of CO2e per pound of cabbage
Eggplants0.07 kg (0.16 lb) of CO2e per pound of eggplants

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

Celery has a low carbon footprint compared to other types of foods, and even in comparison to other fruits and vegetables. It has one of the lowest carbon footprints out of the most popular vegetables.

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). Celery ranks as on of the lowest greenhouse gas emitting produce, alongside other root vegetables. 

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

Though the carbon emissions for celery are relatively low, there are some ways to reduce and offset your carbon footprint. When you do purchase celery, try to be mindful of the ways you can lessen your environmental impact.

How Can You Reduce and Offset Your Personal Carbon Footprint

All of the food you eat will have some form of carbon footprint, especially when you buy foods with high CO2e. However, there are ways to offset and reduce your personal carbon footprint. 

There are a few easy techniques to buy more eco-friendly celery, and you can also find ways to offset the carbon footprint after your purchase. 

How Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint When Shopping for Celery

When shopping for celery, consider these ways to lessen your impact on the environment. 

  1. Opt for packaging-free produce: If you are unable to find loose celery, choose cardboard-based packaging as opposed to plastic. Plastic waste is hard to recycle and creates an abundance of issues, but you can also reduce the impact of recycling by purchasing fruit and vegetables with no packaging at all.
  2. Buy locally: Driving up demand for local produce reduces food miles and lessens greenhouse gas emissions. Make sure you buy celery grown in the US, instead of imported from other countries, to ensure you have a more positive impact. Buying from farmers local to your area is even more beneficial. 
  3. Choose organic celery: Organic celery produces a much lower carbon footprint than non-organic produce, due to the lack of pesticide production, distribution, and the overall higher health of soil for crops, insects, and animals.

Taking these actions are a great way to lessen your own carbon footprint, but there are also ways to offset the impact of consuming celery as well.

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 celery. These 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 celery – 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 celery, 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 celery.

Final Thoughts

Celery is overall a wonderful choice of sustainable vegetable. However, you can reduce your carbon footprint even further by eating organic, buying plastic-free, and purchasing local produce. As there is an interest in peat farming, celery may be one of the first crops to be farmed in a carbon-neutral way.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Grace Howarth

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