Carbon Footprint of organic Carbon Footprint of organic Spanish compared to conventional Austrian/Swedish cucumbers- Consumer and producer perspective on reducing greenhouse gas emissions
This report investigates the environmental impacts of cucumber production in Spain, Austria and Sweden and analyses the results in two perspectives: the consumer and the producer perspective. The consumer perspective is used to environmentally analyze imported, ecological cucumbers from Spain and local, conventional greenhouse cucumbers from Austria and Sweden. Calculations are made from cradle to grave – from pre-cultivator to retailer including waste disposal. The environmental impact is measured by Carbon Footprint, CO2-equivalents. The producer perspective is used to gain insight in the activities and influences, as well as environmental possibilities of each actor in the cucumber production chain.
The results of the environmental calculations of 1 kg of cucumbers are: 0,41 kg CO2-eq for ecological cucumbers from Spain imported to Austria; 0,42 kg / 0,35 kg CO2-eq for conventional Austrian cucumbers, depending on district heating emissions; 1,11 kg CO2-eq for conventional Swedish cucumbers. In the Spanish cucumber production about 50 % of total greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport to Austria. Austrian cucumbers have their hotspots in cultivation (~70 %), due to CO2-gas fertilization, heating of greenhouses and nitrogen fertilization. Swedish cucumbers show highest emissions also in cultivation (~90 %), due to heating of greenhouses.
The cucumber production chain and its environmental impacts are formed by actors’ direct and indirect influences. Direct influence comes from most powerful actors like consumer, retailer and cooperative. Consumer and retailer are seen as equally strong, cooperative‘s influence is a little bit smaller. Indirect influence is evident in all actors. The actor’s position in the production chain indicates the strength of indirect influence. Transport, cultivator and pre-cultivator are seen as the players with low and mostly indirect influence on the other actors, but with high responsibility on their own production process.
Recommendation for the Spanish cultivator is switching to plantation on soil with sand layer to avoid soil preparation with tractor and to reduce water consumption. The Austrian cultivator should carefully use CO2-gas and nitrogen fertilizer. Swedish cultivators should use more renewable energies for heating and reduce CO2-gas. Transport from Spain to Austria by railway could save about 66 % of emissions and the retailer could reduce emissions by avoiding plastic film wraps. Retailer should reconsider the necessity of the plastic film wrap.
With the Carbon Footprint method it is difficult to make a specific purchase decision for consumers, but for actors of the cucumber production chain it is a significant tool. A Carbon Footprint of cucumbers is a start to raise consumer awareness of vegetable production and to show their global warming impact.