Chocolate: what is its environmental impact?

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Easter is coming and we will consume a lot of chocolate. However, many are unaware of the environmental impact of this much-loved ingredient. A recent study wanted to evaluate it and unfortunately the results are not very encouraging.

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Easter is coming and we will consume a lot chocolate. However, many are unaware of the environmental impact of this much-loved ingredient. A recent study wanted to evaluate it and unfortunately the results are not very encouraging.





Chocolate is one of the most popular foods for adults and children and always present on holidays. Most of the time, however, we do not think about it: chocolate has not only an economic impact but also an environmental one, in fact its production is not always "clean" (we mean at the level of exploitation of workers, in some cases even minor) nor ecological.

A recent study, conducted by researchers from the University of Manchester, examined the carbon footprint and in general the environmental impact of chocolate, arriving at certainly not positive results. It did so by evaluating the production processes but also the packaging and waste that is produced to make the chocolate consumed in the United Kingdom.

We focused in particular on three products that make up 90% of the local market: molded chocolates, chocolate bars and chocolates in bags, that is, all processed products and not the classic tablet.

In the UK, people consume an average of 8kg of chocolate per year but at what price? According to the study, one kilogram of chocolate requires about 10 liters of water for production and is responsible for CO2 emissions of between 2.9 and 4.2 kg. The study estimates that the UK's chocolate industry produces around 2,1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) per year. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of the entire population of a city as large as Belfast.

The professor. Adisa Azapagic, Head of Sustainable Industrial Systems at the University of Manchester and author of the study, said:

"Cocoa is grown around the equator in humid climatic conditions, mainly in West Africa and Central and South America, so it has to travel some distance before turning it into the chocolate products we make and consume in the UK."



So it is not only a factor of production but also of movement, transporting it far from the places of origin consumes many resources as well as packaging and, in some cases, refrigeration.

But it's not just cocoa: even for the powdered milk, necessary to make chocolates, a lot of energy is needed, the milk industry in fact produces enormous emissions of greenhouse gases.

In essence, therefore, the researchers underline how chocolate has a great impact on our planet, obviously we are not asked to stop consuming it but at least to be aware of the situation and make more informed choices.

Perhaps the study can also be a starting point and help producers (at least those who are most willing and attentive to the environment) to improve supply chains and thus make chocolate as sustainable as possible.

On the environmental impact of cocoa and other foods, read also:



  • How the illegal cocoa used by multinationals is destroying the forests of the Ivory Coast
  • The 10 commonly used products that contribute to deforestation

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