Sustainability | Renewable Energy

10 Fruits With the Lowest Carbon Footprint

10 Fruits With the Lowest Carbon Footprint (and Why) 

By Beth Rush


If you eat a plant-based diet to reduce your carbon footprint, you might have wondered what the most environmentally friendly fruits and vegetables are. Many factors influence your food’s sustainability besides plant or animal origin. 

What determines the eco-friendliness of your meal, other than cows playing no role in the production process? Knowing what makes food sustainable helps you choose the fruits with the lowest carbon footprint. Here’s where to find them near you. 

What Is the Most Environmentally Friendly Fruit? 

Plant-based foods are more sustainable than animal-based ones because they require fewer resources to produce, provide more calories per acre of arable land, and emit less waste. However, eating a red delicious from your local farmer’s market is greener than picking up the same apple wrapped in plastic from your grocery store. 

Factors impacting your fruit’s (or any food) carbon footprint include where and how farmers and manufacturers produce it, how much energy goes into its creation, and how folks in the supply chain package it and deliver it to your grocers. Therefore, a cherry from your orchard is more sustainable than a lychee shipped from China, and a bundle of carrots is greener than a frozen pack wrapped in plastic. 

What Factors Make a Fruit Environmentally Friendly? 


Ask yourself the following questions when shopping to find the most environmentally friendly fruits.

What Type of Plant Is It? Is it native to your region or considered invasive? Although rare, seeds can spread. 

How Much Fruit Does It Produce Per Acre? Crops that use the least land while producing the biggest yields are more sustainable.

How Much Water Does It Need?

How Susceptible Is It to Pests? Pesticides impact soil quality and can disrupt ecosystems. 

What Soil Types Does It Flourish In? Fruits with the lowest carbon footprint flourish in the soils where you live. 

How Hard Is It to Pollinate and Propagate? Some plants spread rapidly, while others require precise conditions to take root. 

How Wide a Variety of Growing Conditions Can It Tolerate? Climate change means more drastic weather patterns, and the wider range a plant can adapt to, the more sustainable it is. 

How Well Does It Keep During Transport and Storage? Rot contributes to food waste, which is the biggest source of landfill methane emissions. Shipments that go bad contribute a considerable amount, as do household refrigerators holding moldering produce.

10 of the Most Environmentally Friendly Fruits Overall


Choosing the most environmentally friendly fruits partially depends on where you live — and your and your family’s preferences. However, here are some of the fruits with the lowest carbon footprints to add to your shopping list: 

1. Figs 

Fig trees grow best in zones six and seven but can thrive in five to 11 with the right care, making them ideal for much of the United States. Contrary to popular belief, many species today no longer need wasps to pollinate and convey various health benefits, including reduced inflammation. 

2. Apples 

Depending on the variety, apples grow well in zones three through eight. Some are sweet, while others are tart, and all contain pectin, a type of fiber that nourishes your gut bacteria. 

3. Berries

Berries grow on slopes nearly anywhere in the U.S., although the type you choose depends on your climate. Many of these tiny fruits are antioxidant powerhouses. For example, goji berries contain 42% of your daily vitamin A, and raspberries possess 36% of your vitamin C allowance. 

4. Pears

Pear trees need full sun to bear fruit. This quality makes them excellent shade trees. Planting them to cast their shadow on sunny windows could decrease your carbon footprint by lowering your AC bill. 

5. Cherries

Cherry trees can produce a tremendous amount of fruit per tree, perfect for making jams and preserves. Plus, some species begin producing in spring and continue all summer long. 

6. Plums 

Plum trees beautify any home or garden with their distinct foliage and fruit. These fruit trees are cold hardy, making them perfect for more northerly U.S. regions. 

7. Strawberries

Strawberry picking is a healing, mindful activity. They prefer direct sunlight, make a gorgeous border for garden areas, and thrive in most places in the northern hemisphere. 

8. Watermelon

If you’re interested in learning how to save seeds to start a sustainable garden at home, pick up an organic watermelon. While the seedless varieties are hybrids, the originals are easy to pluck, dry, and plant to begin your green thumb adventures. 

9. Grapes

Although the owners of your local vineyard can spend hours discussing soil types and sunlight requirements, many species of edible grapes thrive in seemingly hostile environments. Everyone knows about Napa Valley, but the rugged high-desert climate of Arizona’s Verde Valley has recently become a hotspot for various vintners. 

10. Limes

Did you know you can grow some fruit trees in containers? Limes are an option for apartment dwellers — place one on a sunny patio and use your harvest to add acidity to various dishes like a professional chef. 

Finding the Fruits With the Lowest Carbon Footprint Near You


If you want to plant fruit in your garden or various trees around your yard, your best bet is to find an independent nursery near you. Such shops usually have trained personnel who are experts in area soil types and growing conditions. They can recommend the best species for high yields and little waste. 

The best place to find the fruit with the lowest carbon footprint when shopping is at your farmer’s market. Unlike your grocery, which may use nationwide suppliers, the produce on your farmer’s market shelves comes from nearby farms, reducing transportation emissions. 

Environmentally Friendly Fruits

Eating a plant-based diet is the first step toward greater sustainability in what you eat. Finding the most environmentally friendly fruits and vegetables kicks your efforts up another notch. 

Use this guide to find the fruits with the lowest carbon footprints near you. Frequent your farmer’s market or, better yet, plant some in your garden for fresh, organic goodness right at home. 

About the author: Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, where she covers topics like the power of climate consciousness at all stages of education. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!



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