Sustainable Materials: Go nuts, for COCONUTS

Over the years, it seems the UK has gone nuts for coconuts.

This fruit, nut, seed(?) is quite distinct in that it’s formed of layers. The clear liquid at the centre of young coconut (coconut water) is delicious to drink and certainly a health fad that has swept the globe.

More mature, ripe coconuts can be eaten as edible seeds, or processed for oil and plant milk from the flesh. Super delicious and Thai food wouldn’t be the same without it! As the vegan market has grown, so has our love of coconuts for providing dairy alternatives.

Its oil has cleansing, health benefits, making it widely used in beauty or personal care regimes. Charcoal can be made from the hard shells or more recently the ever-popular activated charcoal used as poison antidote or teeth whitening.

Finally, coir is made from the fibrous husk and can found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of a coconut. It’s used for making everything from finer brushes, string, rope and fishing nets.

Who knew so much could be done with this wonderful seed. And here we are picking out the Bounty’s out of Celebrations boxes at Christmas. It certainly does not deserve the hate!

So how sustainable are Coconuts and some of the uses of it? Let’s get beneath the layers to find out…

The Pros

  • Boosted Economy: The growing demand for coconut products are increasing the need for supply, which in turn is giving job opportunities to people living in areas of the world where coconut trees can be planted.

  • Harvesting Method: Coconuts are harvested without the use of machinery and instead by hand. Again this creates jobs but also lowers th impact machines can have on the environment

  • Manure: The use of manure in the early stages of coconut tree growth is seen to be hugely beneficil, as such it promotes local suppliers and businesses to compost and creates organic manure to supply coconut growers.

  • Cover Crops: Most coconut producers use poly-culture farming methods. Plants and herbs such as sunnhemp and calopogonium can be grown at the base of the tree helping them to produce multiple crop a a time

The Cons

  • Transportation Methods: Unless you live in an area where coconuts are grown locally, it requires a lot of fuel and transportation (leavinga huge carbon footrint in its wake) to get to you, particularly those of us in the UK

  • Pesticides: While growing coconut trees doesn’t require the application of harmful pesticides or herbicides, serious farmers do use them to increase yields as they as susceptible to some diseases and pest

  • Biodiversity: Depending on the business model, some farmers will focus on quantity over quality partaking in mono-culture farming (the cultivation of a single crop in a given area). This greatly reduces biodiversity in areas and can have a bigger impact on the environment becoming more resource intensive (resources not then shared between multiple crops)

  • Irrigation: Coconut trees can have an impact on the local environment as water from rivers and lakes are diverted to plantations. Soil absorption and evaporation mean that much of this water is lost on the way and therefore wasted

We are so ar removed from the growth and production line of coconut and yet it's our insatiable appetite for coconut products that drive these negative impacts on the environment. Giving up on internationally produced crops isn't always the answer. Like coffee and bananas, there are entire economies and people reliant on the demand.

So what can we do?

  • Educate yourself: Do your researchbefore buying coconut products to ensure your moral concerns and values are inline with the businesses you buy from. Before spending your hard earned cash, comapanies should have transparency on their supply lines and source their products ethically and respondibly

  • Buy organic. Buying coconut products that are certified organic helps ensure that the local ecology and people weren’t put at risk from chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

  • Always Fair Trade. Look for Fair Trade certification - this ensures farmers receive ample compensation, but also that their farming methods take environmental sustainability into account. As farmers are being paid more, they are less likely to partake in overgrown monoculture coconut crops and destroy local biodiversity

  • Go Zero Waste. Try to buy products that have plastic free -packagingand can be disposed of without harming the environment further. Look for this that biodegrade rather than degrade, or better, are compostable at home. This will mean that they will decompose in a shorter amount of time

Shop Organic, Fairtrade Coconut Products with Forever and Green

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