23 January 2009

Green Juice

Before you say it: no, this juice is not of a green hue. Rather, it is orange. Very orange. But it is actually very green. A few years ago my parents generously gave me a juicer for my birthday, and though I rarely bought juice, I found that freshly squeezed juice was far superior and a true healthy treat. The juice pictured is a favorite of mine: carrot-apple. Sometimes I add beets for extra sweetness and a beautiful ruby color. The carrots and apples are both local and organic (from ... my CSA share, of course!). Now one might might look into the environmental impact of my electric juicer, but I blend only until juice is made and never leave any appliances plugged in when not in use. So for the sake of argument, let's say that the electric juicer is not detracting from the green goodness of my tasty juice.

(Side note: As friends and family know, I have an obsession with never leaving anything plugged in but the bare essentials: alarm clock, fridge and oven. I neurotically unplug every charger, my modem, radio. Lights are not left on. And until it was freeeeeezing out, I gallantly used cold - cool water for hand/face/dish washing -- some hot for dish washing -- and turned off water when not rinsing soap/shampoo in the shower. That being said, it is incredibly cold of late and I have started using more hot water. Oops! This is my attempt at low electricity bills and a delicate carbon footprint.)

Back to the juice. Why post about local, organic, fresh-squeezed carrot-apple juice? It's delicious. Nutritious. And about 1000 times better for the envirnoment than your average commercial orange juice. Starting locally (no pun intended), making anything from scratch is generally better. You know what the ingredients are, where the ingredients come from and know that the waste from the creation of dish, drink, whatever is disposed of properly. So with my juice, I know that the three carrots and three apples are local and organic. I know that the remaining pulp will be composted (yes -- I am composting again: thank you, pedal co-op!). I can feel good about this juice and feel confident that the ingredients were grown in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, because I know the farmer.

Of course, not everyone has a juicer. Not everyone has time to make their own juice. But many people like juice, buy it regularly and drink it daily. I was never one of these people, though I admit to stocking juice at times for others. Bought juice does not always have to be bad for the environment. The farmer's market here sells local apple cider and pear cider too (yum). There are smaller companies that sell organic, small-batch juices which are shipped in eco-friendly ways. This kind of happy, green juice, however, is almost never going to be America's favorite juice: orange juice -- the anti-green juice! (And, yes, this is the juice I stocked for said friend -- I'm such a sucker.) If you live in the midwest or northeast, oranges will never be local. I know! It's horrible. Why should Berkeleyians have lemon trees lining the streets, while I go through major internal conflict every time I consider buying an organic lemon and feel the need to turn a blind eye and repent later when I eat tasty mexican food with lovely limey-zest? It is not fair, but that is life. There is a reason why lucky, good children would receive an orange in their stockings at Christmas: Oranges are exotic!

Yet, it isn't even the shipping or mass production of orange juice that is the worst (though these things don't exactly tread lightly in terms of carbon footprints). Enter my beloved New York Times. Yesterday in the "Business" section of the Times there was an article about the environmental cost of orange juice. PepsiCo, which owns Tropicana, did a study of the environmental impact of orange juice, and its affect on global warming:
PepsiCo hired experts to do the math, measuring the emissions from such energy-intensive tasks as running a factory and transporting heavy juice cartons. But it turned out that the biggest single source of emissions was simply growing oranges. Citrus groves use a lot of nitrogen fertilizer, which requires natural gas to make and can turn into a potent greenhouse gas when it is spread on fields.

PepsiCo finally came up with a number: the equivalent of 3.75 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted to the atmosphere for each half-gallon carton of orange juice.
Big surprise, commericialized citrus groves use practices that are harmful for the environment. So what is do be done? Stricter regulations of green practices for companies are on the rise, but the results are not always 100% legit. Aiding the environment and commercial success seem to have a way of getting mixed up. Suddenly it is popular to advertise how green you are, and this in turn becomes a marketing ploy -- and who knows the accuracy or reliability of the data shared.

It is a start though. Hopefully with increased awareness, more people will start asking questions and looking to uncover questionable commercial practices.

In the meantime, drink your juice -- but try to make it green!

(And to my orange-juice consuming friends and family: Don't feel personally insulted, just think a little longer about the environmental consequence of your juice of choice. You do not have to stop drinking orange juice altogether, and I bet that when visiting my juice-drinking friend this weekend, I might even have some orange juice myself! And if you do choose to consider phasing out orange juice: You are not going to get scurvy!)


  1. MMM! I love juice too - such a great treat. I broke the juicer, but Yann got us a funky one that makes ice cream and nut butter too for Christmas this year! Wait til you see it, it looks a little like a ray gun.

  2. Have you looked into having your electricity sourced from wind producers?