Rethink Your Things: almonds

Adding a little more thought into your next light snack or almond milk latte

Almonds take an astonishing 4.16 litres (1.1 gallons) of water to produce! Since the 1980s, farmers have reduced this number by 33 per cent. (jules/Flickr)

I’ve spent my past two columns talking about plastics that we can all do without and how we should opt for more natural and sustainable products but after a recent interaction and presentation from chef David Wolfman I’ve begun to pay more attention to other forms of over-consumption.

While it’s true that we waste a lot of food in restaurants, grocery stores and conventions, to name a tiny amount of instances, we also waste resources producing food as well. In this instance, I’d like to draw your attention to one of the healthiest, most delicious, occasionally chocolate-covered snacks in the world, almonds.

Here’s a bombshell fact: It takes a reasonably accurate 4.16 litres of water to grow a single almond. Hecking yikes.

When you take into consideration that currently 80 per cent of the world’s almonds come from California, a state that until this last weekend had experienced one of it’s most devastating droughts in history, it puts that four litres of water into perspective.

A subsequent wet winter last year has since ended this drought dating back to 2011 according to the US Drought Monitor but dry conditions come quickly to the West Coast state, and when roughly 28 million acres of California is dedicated to agriculture, water is a hot commodity.

When you factor in the $5.6 billion USD that California brought in from almond production in 2017, the production of one of the world’s favourite nuts isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

But almond farmers seem to be already ahead of the curb. As the almond community so proudly states in a numerous amount of press releases that I’ve read, they’ve been able to reduce the amount of water used to grow almonds by 33 per cent since the 80s. Not bad!

And that number is improving. Much of the California almond community is committed to reducing that number again by another 20 percent by 2025 by implementing micro-irrigation in newer farms and retrofitting old orchards.

During the winter, excess stormwater is also being directed into the fields, seeping into the soil and underground aquifers without damaging the trees.

It is undoubtedly a move in the right direction, and proudly enough, not the only sustainable initiative these farms are implementing. Farms all over California are going zero-waste, supporting honey bee research at orchards and contributing to a better bioecology.

So the next time you order your latte with almond milk as a health power move, you can feel a little better knowing that this major agricultural industry is holding themselves accountable. However, we owe it to ourselves as protectors of this planet to keep industries, farmers and business accountable.

We need to put in the research before sharing trendy stories with each other claiming we know what’s best for not only us but the planet too, and that goes beyond almonds.

As a tangent to this column, I learned that we’re missing an almond emoji! While it isn’t a huge deal to me, the digital representation is huge to the industry. You can find the humorous petition on the California Almonds Twitter site @almonds. As well, you can Tweet me using #RethinkYourThings for column topic suggestions.