Welcome to our world – decisions about buying tomatoes!

 

Once upon a time, the staff at Credibly Green were blissfully ignorant and went about their day to day lives just simply buying things without a thought.  Then we learnt some stuff and we are now trying to lower our environmental impact which manifests itself in many strange places; like buying tomatoes.

It’s British tomato week to promote buying British tomatoes. You would think that tomatoes that have not been freighted across continents would be much more environmentally friendly. Let’s have a further look at this . At their best tomatoes are low carbon foods, at their worst they are shockingly carbon intensive!

1 kg of tomatoes =

50 kg CO₂e organic on the vine, UK grown in March

9.1 kg  CO₂e average

O.4 kg CO₂e organic loose, traditional variety, locally grown in July

Tomatoes grown in Britain are grown in glasshouses, if you want tomatoes out of season (the season is July to October) then these glasshouses will need to be heated. How they are heated is really important. Large growers e.g. APS Salads or R & L Holt have combined heat and power plants that generate power using biogas from anaerobic digestion using food waste and use the excess heat to heat the glasshouses and use the CO from the exhaust gases which helps the tomatoes grow. The glass houses are thermally screened and LED lights are used. All this is brilliant but, from a carbon perspective, we need to treat buying British tomatoes with caution. Not all growers are this proactive in keeping their carbon footprint low. Some supermarkets list the grower on the packaging so it is possible to do your own research and try to buy from a supplier that is doing the most to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible.

 

Also organic specialist varieties often generate a higher carbon burden. So why do they produce so much carbon? Being organic and being a specialist variety e.g. cherry tomato, there will be a reduced yield per hectare, resulting in a greater carbon burden for the same quantity (tonnage) of fruit.

Here is an indicative priority list of the things to consider when buying tomatoes*:

Best    Home grownArrow

In season, traditional variety, locally grown, loose

In season, traditional variety, UK grown, packaged

In season, specialist variety, locally grown, loose

In season, specialist variety, UK grown, packaged

In season, specialist variety, organic, locally grown, loose

In season, specialist variety, organic, UK grown, packaged

Out of season, traditional variety, responsible grower, UK grown, loose

Out of season, traditional variety, responsible grower, UK grown, packaged

Out of season, traditional variety, responsible grower, UK grown, organic, loose

Out of season, traditional variety, responsible grower, UK grown, organic, packaged,

Out of season, traditional variety, from Spain, loose

Out of season, traditional variety, from Spain, packaged

Out of season, specialist variety, traditional grower, from Spain, organic, loose

Out of season, specialist variety, traditional grower, from Spain organic, packaged

Out of season, specialist variety, traditional grower, UK grown, organic, loose

Worst  Out of season, specialist variety, traditional grower, UK grown, organic, packaged

   

 We all buy with good intentions but we cannot know everything, and often in questions of environmental impact one benefit can result in another impact, and some findings are initially counterintuitive (e.g. if out of season, importing traditional tomatoes from Spain being a lower carbon impact than a specialist organic variety from the UK). This is why talking to experts like the staff at Credibly Green can help. If you would like advice on greening your procurement, supply chain or manufacturing process give us a call on 01746 552423 or email info@crediblygreen.com

 

*This list is not exhaustive and there will be exceptions as highlighted in the text

 

 

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