Those who care about the environment usually strive to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, grown outdoors and harvested when ripe. But when is that exactly, and how big of an impact does transport have? A closer look reveals unexpected answers.
Our carbon footprint increases with every kilometre we travel, every light we switch on and every bite we eat. When it comes to kilometres or electricity, it is obvious how we can reduce our footprint. With food, things are not as straightforward.
Farming, processing and transport methods are all contributing factors. And supermarkets have it all: regional and imported, organic or conventional, shipped or flown in. Products that look similar are grouped together. But there is a massive difference in their carbon footprints.
Take asparagus, for example. One kilo of asparagus flown in from Peru generates 27 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents*. The same asparagus transported by ship generates 2.5 kg of carbon. This is better than the early asparagus from Europe in March, which is grown on heated fields and generates 5 kg of carbon! Asparagus from the fields is not available until the end of April at 1.5 kg carbon per kilo. Organic avocados transported from Peru by ship only amount to 1.4 kg of CO2.
There are similar examples with fruit. Strawberries in April, whether they grew in Thurgau or Valais, come to over 4 kg of CO2 per kilo – more than those from Morocco in February (3.4 kg of CO2). Only starting end of May do organic strawberries reach a good carbon footprint of 0.77 kg. However, even these strawberries are outdone by fresh mangoes from Burkina Faso which only amount to 0.66 kg of CO2 per kilo.
What makes sense from an environmental perspective isn’t always what we might expect. Unlike political issues, however, there is a scientific basis to the carbon footprint. We have therefore taken a close look at our products together with experts. The results may differ from other studies, but the key findings are clear: It is essential to grow produce outdoors and avoid air transport.
Surprisingly, long transport routes by ship and lorry have little impact on the carbon footprint. This presents an opportunity for small-scale family farmers and consumers throughout the world. Compared to foods that are animal-based, processed or not grown outdoors, fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables are sure to reduce our carbon footprint, any time of the year!
Download our Seasonal Calendar 2021
However, it makes little sense to import fruits and vegetables from faraway countries in summer and autumn. This is harvest time in Europe, so the markets are already bursting with produce. During these months, gebana only receives European specialties, with the exception of coconuts.
After that, our range slowly expands in late autumn and winter. We import figs and dates directly after the harvest. After that, citrus fruit season begins in Greece. The fruits are harvested fresh all winter long and are an exemplary role model in terms of their carbon footprint: At 0.5 kg of carbon, they score nearly as well as organic apples from Switzerland (0.4 kg of carbon in January).
Things get tougher for consumers towards the end of winter and all through spring until early summer, as they wait impatiently for the first regional fruits. But even fruits we think of as seasonal, like the local strawberries that appear in supermarkets as early as the beginning of April, are not sustainable. Their carbon footprint at this time is worse than that of tropical fruits transported by ship, such as our mangos or avocados, which we import from April on.
On the topic of CO2, we would be remiss if we did not mention our luxury item: pineapple. It is the only one of our products to come by air transport and therefore has a substantial carbon footprint of 9.9 kg per kilo. We ensure that the CO2 emissions from the sale of pineapple are compensated fivefold.
On our seasonal calendar, you can see when gebana products are in season. It is meant to help you manage your orders. In terms of sustainability, we will continually be updating the calendar so that we can offer the right combination of products from Europe and the rest of the world for every season.
*Equivalent, because in addition to CO2, the effects of methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases are taken into account.
When you think about the environmental impact of our food, its production and transport, sooner or later you come to the question: What role does packaging play?
There is no simple answer to the question of the importance of packaging. We must consider the entire life cycle of packaging, understand its purpose and look at what the packaging contains. Because what's inside the packaging matters more than the packaging itself. Read more about this in our blog post "Contents Matter More than Packaging".
With e-commerce, everything begins with you and your computer. Electricity is required to access the Internet. Your order then sets in motion a process that starts at the merchant’s warehouse. A truck drives off with many, many customer orders, including yours. In a distribution centre, your package is transferred to a smaller vehicle for delivery to your home and many others along the way.
You place an order with the intention of picking it up yourself, or make your purchase directly at the store. In both cases, the goods still need to be transported from a large warehouse to the pick-up station or store. Both options use more electricity than a warehouse, requiring more heating in winter or perhaps even cooling in summer. All the extra devices also require more electricity than a warehouse infrastructure. Finally, you have to collect your package at the pick-up station or store, either by bike, by public transport or, in the worst case, by car.
A rough idea of what all this means in terms of CO2 emissions is given in a graphic by the German Institute for Applied Ecology Unfortunately, the graph can only be found in a paper published by the institute (page 15). Organised as an association, this research institute has been involved in sustainable development strategies since the 1970s. Also of interest is the May 2019 article "How bad is e-commerce for the climate?" (only available in German) which addresses the chart in question.
As a general rule, online shopping is better if we don’t send back too many packages, whereas offline shopping makes more sense if businesses make investments in energy efficiency and we as consumers shop on foot or by bike.
Please keep me informed about gebana and its products.
Halten Sie mich über dieses Projekt auf dem Laufenden.×
Smallholders and local producers harvest and refine products of extraordinary quality worldwide. But for many of these producers there is no adequate or stable market. You can buy directly from these producers via the Access to Market Platform and help them to participate in the market. The principle behind this is crowd ordering – a new trade model whereby a number of consumers order a product together so as to achieve a minimum order quantity. We at gebana support the producers with our know-how, and organise the logistics.
Enable someone to make their first export with your order. Please note: Unexpected events often lead to delays, and you may find that the quality is not yet perfect. For this reason, your feedback is absolutely essential. The export experience and your feedback are important steps for the producers towards accessing the market. As a customer, you are witness to the whole process, playing your part in pioneering work.
You can order from these producers simply and directly. You receive your product as soon as the minimum order quantity has been reached and the products are ready. The risk for you is minimal, since the producers already have a product that is ready for market. This sales channel is beneficial to both the producers and the consumers, since it cuts out the middle man.
Be part of the development of supply chains and support innovation! Some of the ways you can do this include testing new products, giving feedback, or financially supporting the producers in their next steps. In doing so, you will be able to see for yourself how the products and supply chains develop.
This is where you can see all the completed projects on the Access to Market Platform at a glance. You can find out where products are now available from or whether the producers are still seeking a trade partner.