Cotton and Avocados, not sustainable? The thirsty truth.
The human consciousness has been alerted to healthy eating activities and practices. Today’s society knows eating healthy is necessary and natural materials are better than synthetic. Everything we eat and wear is connected but education on sustainability is taking conscious choices one step further.
Many consumers know cotton is a natural fiber and buy it thinking it is the best choice. Again, many consumers are eating healthier than ever before and avocados are delicious, full of potassium and heart-healthy fat. The increasing concern of drought conditions and concern of the amount of water used to farm cotton and avocado leaves us with a dilemma. Cotton and Avocados, not sustainable?
The new question is whether farming for natural comfort and health of cotton and avocados overrides the need for water in areas where they grow.
Cotton the thirsty natural fiber
According to WWF, cotton makes up half the fiber used in textiles worldwide. The fact that agriculture is the primary pollutant and danger to drinking water, means cotton farming and processing is directly connected to endangering water sources, worldwide.
Irrigation is the primary watering source of 73 % of cotton crops. Run-off from the irrigated land contains pesticides. The cotton industry pesticide usage represents a huge portion of overall pesticide usage. Pesticides are linked to devastating health problems in humans and animals.
Looking to sustainability and reduced pesticide use, the cotton industry is aware of the huge amount of water needed to grow cotton. It takes approximately 5,500 gallons, or 20,000 liters of water to make one t-shirt. Genetically modified, or GM cotton makes cotton more resistant to insects, thus reduce pesticides needed to farm cotton. Drought resistant cotton is GM cotton which needs less water. Between the GM cotton stains fewer pesticides and less water usage equates to fewer pollutants in run-off water. The GM cotton is a step in the right direction, but far from sustainable and environmentally safe.
Avocado marketed as healthy
Effective marketing lifted the green fruit to new heights of popularity. Revered as having 20 vitamins and minerals which are healthy. Loaded with potassium, lutein, and folate, which are good for blood pressure, eyes and pregnant women. Low in sugar and high in fiber, which makes avocados filling without blood sugar spikes. Avocados are loaded with the ‘good fat’. Rich in calories but considered a healthy choice due to all the nutrients loaded into them.
The tasty green fruit is popular and all the craze in today’s healthy food availability. However, are avocados sustainable? Considering most avocados are grown in California and south, across the Mexico border, where severe drought has brought about concerns of water shortages, avocados remain the sweetheart of the health food industry.
Avocado farmers have increased awareness of the water shortage pressure and requirements in maintaining avocado crops. California agriculture accounts for 80% of water use in the state, while strict state mandates keep the rest of water use to a bare minimum. California avocado farmers are paying high prices for water delivery. Warmer summers increase the demand for water for farming avocados Water needed to grow avocados costs approximately $1500 per acre-foot for 326,000 gallons of water. It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados. Comparatively, a pound of tomatoes requires only 9 gallons of water.
Environmentally conscience consumers buy produce in season. Avocado is available year-round across the globe. Typically avocado is a tropically grown fruit, but the severe drought conditions in California has changed the growing environment to a desert, increasing delivery of water. Farmers look for ways to obtain the water needed without raising costs. One idea was desalination of water. The cost of desalinated water is beyond consideration for the farmers since the price is in the neighborhood of $2600 per acre-foot.
Sustainability of avocado crops is a continuing worry for the avocado industry. The high amount of water, severe drought conditions, and popularity of avocados are a wicked brew of contradictions. While each season’s water demand increases and no end to the drought in sight the avocado’s future remains in question.
Demand sustainability of cotton and avocados
Consumers’ knowledge of natural materials is favorable and demand of healthy food a priority, they remain behind in their consideration of sustainability. Are cotton and avocado sustainable crops? For now, both crops fall short of sustainable. As science, agriculture and public demand find a common ground we must use our conscious to determine a priority between our need for clean water and our desires. In the meantime, cotton and avocado farming require a tremendous amount of water. Cotton farming is slowly reducing the amount of water and pesticides in use. Avocado farmers are continually searching for more water options. Environmental concerns of cotton and avocado water use collide with the popularity and marketing of both industries. Sustainability of cotton and avocado remains a concern.