Thursday, January 29, 2009

Juicy: crunching the carbon footprint numbers

For those of us who think about our own carbon footprint, it’s safe to say that orange juice isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, PepsiCo, which makes Tropicana, one of North America’s most popular juice brands, recently revealed that a 64 ounce (about two litre) carton of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice has a lifecycle carbon footprint of 1.7 kilograms.

In many ways, this is a laudable effort by PepsiCo. The company worked with The Carbon Trust to map the product lifecycle of Tropicana juice, including growing the oranges, getting the containers on store shelves, and disposing or recycling the packaging. At each stage, the trust added the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions to estimate the total greenhouse gas footprint of the product. PepsiCo says the Tropicana number creates “a verifiable benchmark against which the company can measure greenhouse gas reduction progress going forward.”

Still, the process raises a number of questions. Is 1.7 kilograms a “good” number in the beverage world? It’s hard to say, since PepsiCo is one of the first companies to publish this data, although it has pledged to reveal the same number for some of its other products, such as Pepsi-Cola, Diet Pepsi and Gatorade. But a little digging reveals that the Carbon Trust has also worked with U.K. grocery chain Tesco, and found that 64 ounces of Tesco’s 100% Pure Squeezed orange juice has a carbon footprint of about 2.9 kilograms.

Fiji Water calculated its own carbon footprint and posted the results online: about one kilogram for two litres of Fiji’s bottled water.

Critics say Fiji's numbers are nothing more than greenwashing. Pablo Paster, a sustainability engineer at Triple Pundit, calculates that the manufacture and transport of a one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumes 26 kilograms of water and nearly one kilo of fossil fuel. Paster concludes that it takes nearly seven times as much water to make Fiji’s products than you actually drink. Food, or rather, drink for thought.

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