By Allison Ford, DivineCaroline
If you’re like me, you do what you can for the environment. While I haven’t progressed to giving up toilet paper or line-drying my laundry, I take public transportation, I compost and recycle at home, and I forego bottled water along with most disposable shopping bags. It’s the little things, right?
One of the little things I do is get most of my food from our local farmers’ market, because it’s hard to deny that large-scale commercial agriculture has some pretty depressing side effects, both for our health and for the environment. I’ve adjusted to eating free-range organic eggs, fruit grown without pesticides, and heirloom beans harvested by hand. Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try to green our food sources, there are some items that are unusually hard on the environment—and there’s not much we can do about it.
Consumed in larger quantities than apples or oranges are, bananas are the most popular fruit in America. But they’re also one of the most labor-intensive products, and they have one of the largest carbon footprints. One big problem is that in the United States, there’s almost no such thing as a local banana—the fruit grows only in tropical climates. The vast majority of bananas for sale in America come from Ecuador or Costa Rica, so they’ve been packaged, refrigerated and treated to prevent ripening, and transported thousands of miles, using up large quantities of fuel and energy.
On the plantations where they’re grown in Central America, South America, the Philippines, and elsewhere in Asia, growers use massive amounts of pesticides. The banana’s thick skin makes the pesticides only a minor threat to humans, but the runoff harms the region’s soil and wildlife. Not to mention that the growers clear rain forest away for banana cultivation, further harming the land, and that the main banana-growing companies have a long history of human-rights violations due to their inhumane treatment of their mostly poor and indigent workforce.