The Juicy Details of Your Breakfast Drink

The Juicy Details of Your Breakfast Drink

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Aside from alcohol, few drinks are as divisive as fruit juice. Depending on who you speak to, juice is both a superfood or a sugar bomb that’s bad for us and the environment. What’s the reality? We gained’t weigh in on diet, however the excellent news is that juice has a a lot lower carbon footprint than milk. Unfortunately, fruit juice nonetheless has severe environmental and moral impacts that we should always all be working to attenuate.


Citrus juices, 90% of that are orange juice, make up 63% of U.S. juice consumption. Apple juice is available in second, with grape and pineapple juices rounding out the top four. Britain’s Ethical Consumer stories that amongst unprocessed fruits, apples and oranges have the bottom carbon footprint, with mangoes and grapes the best. Apple juice saves some power by not requiring refrigeration till opened, whereas oranges have a barely decrease agricultural footprint.

Travel distance and technique each earlier than and after processing makes a giant distinction. For instance, oranges delivered to New York City from California generate lower than half the emissions of Mexican oranges. But oranges shipped to Holland from Brazil have decrease emissions than oranges trucked from Spain. This a part of juice’s life cycle is usually hidden from shoppers. Although most Florida oranges are made into juice, most orange juice comes from Brazil, typically blended with juice produced within the United States and sold as an American product.


Agricultural manufacturing accounts for half of the footprint of orange juice, break up roughly between the power inputs for equipment and the chemical inputs of fertilizer and pesticides. Oranges additionally contribute to deforestation and displace different crops, like shade-grown coffee.

Although the U.S. produces apples, most apple juice comes from China. Regardless of origin, apple juice can include high arsenic levels, an artifact of pesticide use in each nations. In China, intensifying apple production has led to nitrate air pollution and soil depletion.

Most out there information relate to wine grapes, that are different from desk and juice grapes. Table grapes (notably imported) and apples routinely present up on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” of pesticide-contaminated produce objects, though juice grapes are usually less chemical intensive than wine or desk grapes.

Pineapples are almost certainly to come back from Costa Rica, the place, regardless of that nation’s environmental repute, plantations are linked to deforestation, wetland destruction, intensive agrochemical use, and soil erosion.

Costa Rican pineapple plantation
Pineapple plantation in Costa Rica


Oxfam’s investigation of Brazilian fruit farms discovered widespread, systemic poverty amongst employees, notably ladies; poor general working circumstances; and insufficient safety in opposition to pesticides. In distinction, the growth of apple manufacturing in China’s Loess Plateau has helped to reduce rural poverty there. Grape juice is extra probably grown within the U.S., the place farmworkers lack many protections assured to different employees. Pineapple plantations have a infamous historical past of workers’ rights abuses, and plantations in Brazil and Cote d’Ivoire are reported to make use of compelled labor and little one labor.


Processing is the second biggest element of juice’s footprint, at 27%. However, proof is inconclusive concerning the variations amongst processing strategies. An older research of Tropicana juice discovered the power use in making ready and storing frozen focus was barely greater than the extra power used to move liquid juices. The solely clear loser was reconstituted orange juice, which undergoes the energy-intensive focus course of whereas nonetheless being shipped within the heavier, bulkier liquid kind.

Packaging accounts for only 5% of the impact of orange juice, with paperboard cartons much less impactful than PET bottles. (Another research evaluating plastic and glass present in favor of plastic.) While packaging waste was only 3% within the life cycle evaluation that included disposal, it’s nonetheless greatest to recycle. Cartons, glass bottles, and plastic bottles are all recyclable, relying on the place you reside.

Drinking Habits

If your objective is most sustainability, purchase not-from-concentrate juice in cartons; purchase native when attainable; and search for certifications.


USDA Certified Organic

Buying natural could make a giant distinction – in a single older research, nearly 60% of the agricultural affect of orange cultivation was fertilizer, and extra recent studies agree that fertilizer continues to be a significant contributor to farm impacts. Although natural certification doesn’t embrace express employee protections, eliminating using agrochemicals does scale back employees’ chemical publicity danger.

USDA Organic logo

Fair Trade

Oranges are well-suited to manufacturing on household farms, however processing is concentrated in solely a handful of corporations. Fairtrade could help set up new, smaller processing services to allow higher farming circumstances. Unfortunately, Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade America, the first honest commerce certification programs in North America, certify only a few juices.

Fair Trade Certified and Fairtrade America logos

Rainforest Alliance

Rainforest Alliance considers each environmental and employee well-being. After merging with UTZ in 2018, they developed a new certification standard that emphasizes context and progress fairly than requirements. They have been accused of certifying unethical pineapple farms (Rainforest Action doesn’t automatically decertify farms when human rights abuses are detected) however they’re one of many few certification programs actively working to improve orange juice and different fruit merchandise.

Rainforest Alliance logo

The Last Drop

Because so many elements determine into the ultimate footprint of a glass of juice it’s unimaginable to definitively determine the greenest glass of juice. So for those who actually love your juice simply the best way you purchase it now, be happy to focus your environmental energies the place you recognize they’ll make the most difference.