Sustainability of fruit and vegetables
We investigated 12 fruits and vegetables: tomatoes, green beans, carrots, cucumbers, onions, sweet peppers, apples, bananas, oranges, mandarins, grapes and strawberries. For four of these products we carried out detailed case studies: sweet peppers, green beans, strawberries and bananas. A number of scenarios were investigated to explore the effects of different provenances (countries of origin), packaging materials (such as glass, cans and plastic) and cultivation methods (such as organic and conventional). In addition, we assessed the use of plant protection products. The social aspects associated with the production of green beans and bananas, such as working conditions, were also investigated in a qualitative study which focused on the cultivation phase.
The environmental impacts of the products are calculated per kilogram of eaten product. This means that the whole life cycles of the products were included in the assessment, from production to consumption. Based on FAO statistics, we identified the main countries of origin of the products available in Dutch supermarkets, as well as the most common production techniques, such as open field and greenhouse cultivation. These data were used to define an ‘average product’ for use in the environmental impact assessment. Three impact categories were used: climate change (carbon footprint) (CO2 equivalent), agricultural land use (m2 per year) and water consumption (m3 water).