The produce industry and climate change are intrinsically linked, with large amounts of energy and resources expended to grow, transport, and store fruits and vegetables. Greenhouse gas emissions and the degradation of soil, forests, and oceans are a consequence of wide scale supply chain operations.
Actively reducing the amount of damage done to the environment and atmosphere is possible with the right measures in place, and sustainable fruits and vegetables are a piece of that equation.
Here’s how we define sustainability and 4 facts about sustainable produce that you can use to take action. Also, check out how Silo can help you reduce waste and ensure that your business is operating more sustainably–and profitably.
What is fruit and vegetable sustainability?
While sustainability can refer to the food itself that’s being produced, it often includes looking at how produce is grown, distributed, and consumed along the supply chain. For example, how far a product has traveled plays a significant role in sustainability.
Environmental, economic, and social impact and the amount of resources consumed to get the product to the shelf are also taken into consideration.
As the climate crisis worsens, consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about ethical consumption. Companies that adapt to this concern not only lessen environmental damage, but can also increase their brand’s reputation by showing that they care about the planet’s health.
With that said, check out these facts about sustainable produce.
1. The most sustainable vegetables are lentils and beans
Lentils are considered a superfood that offer exceptional health benefits. However, this legume is not only a great source of protein and fiber, but also has an extremely low carbon footprint—43 times less than beef, in fact.
Very little water is required to produce them, and they grow in a way that fortifies the soil to make growing other crops easier. They’re also very affordable, making them attractive to consumers who often use them in soups and curries.
Beans are another sustainable vegetable that you might consider buying and selling, as they, too, have a low carbon footprint and take up fewer resources to grow and transport. They come in various sizes and colors, and every variety (whether pinto, red, or black) is packed with nutrients.
Paired with rice or used in salads or soups, beans make for sustainable and eco-friendly meals that you can market to customers.
2. The most sustainable fruit is figs
Although figs are botanically considered a flower, they’re eaten as fruits and are considered a pillar in many ecosystems. They grow all year long and act as a source of food for many species, humans included.
The resilience of fig trees allows them to thrive even amidst droughts and floods, making them vital in wetter regions where growing food is often difficult. Many regions are expected to become increasingly reliant on figs as extreme weather conditions become more common due to climate change.
Regardless, this fruit is one of the most sustainably produced, coming into season during the early summer to fall. Figs come in many varieties, are packed with nutrients, and are favored by customers for their versatility.
3. Working with local and organic businesses increases sustainability
As much as consumers love exotic produce from all around the globe, working towards fruit and vegetable sustainability means cutting down on imports.
Even if a crop is sustainably grown, transporting produce over long distances results in a large eco-footprint. The water content and weight of produce also means that it must be stored and moved under very specific conditions, which can require an exorbitant amount of resources to maintain before the product makes it to the shelf.
To operate more sustainably, consider shortening your supply chain as much as possible. This means working with local businesses to lower your total emissions output.
In terms of specific fruits and vegetables, adhering to seasonality can be more eco-friendly. While it means that you won’t be able to provide apples all year round, it also means you won’t be relying on imports and can cut down on the length of any carbon-intensive supply chains. Plus, paying attention to seasonality trends and striking while the iron is hot has proven to increase sales.
Consider also working with businesses that produce and handle organic fruits and vegetables. Organic crops are environmentally friendly and lead to less pollution, requiring little to no artificial chemicals while helping to maintain soil health.
4. Food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions
Working with sustainable vegetables and fruits is one thing—reducing waste is another. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 73 to 152 million metric tons of food are wasted or lost during all stages of the food supply chain. This ranges from production to consumption.
This not only wastes the core resources used to produce said food (such as water, energy, and land), but contributes significantly to the breakdown of natural landscapes and loss of biodiversity. Greenhouse gas emissions cause soil and air quality to suffer, which has a domino effect.
Working to save the planet means making efforts for waste reduction. This can mean keeping track of your inventory more carefully to prevent spoilage, selling as much of a fruit or vegetable as possible (including the leaves, the seeds, or the skin), or repurposing waste by transforming it into other products.
Check out other food waste solutions that you can implement.
Ensure sustainability using Silo
Sustainable vegetables and fruits are one part of the solution. To ensure that your produce business is operating sustainably, consider enlisting the help of technologies like Silo.
Silo is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform that makes your life easier. Features include lot tracking and traceability, inventory management, accounting, payments, financing and more!
You can use our platform to get immediate insights into your business, including profitability, lot availability, and waste. Take actionable steps towards business growth with easily accessible data that help you prevent waste and reduce the prevalence of unused goods.
Book a demo with Silo today!