What's the carbon footprint of honey?

Oh, honey! Whether you like to add a dash to your tea or enjoy it on a slice of toast, honey is a well-loved sweetener with many health benefits. Let's find out what's the buzz on honey's carbon footprint.

Carbon Footprint of Honey

 

Honey (50g) produces 80g CO₂e*

62.5% more than maple syrup and caster sugar,

both producing 30g COe  

*CO₂e means carbon dioxide equivalent and measures total greenhouse gases

 


 

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Where does honey come from?
 

Pure honey is produced by bees which gather, and then refine, nectar (the sugary secretions of plants) or the secretions of other insects. 

 

Can we produce honey in the UK?
 

Although it is possible to produce honey in the UK, roughly 90% of the pure honey consumed here is imported. As of 2020, the UK imported most of its honey from three main partners: New Zealand (34%), China (31%), and Poland (9%).

It is possible to keep bee hives in your own garden to produce your own honey too. Your bees will collect pollen and nectar from your local area, creating honey that's unique in colour and flavour to your local area.

what is the carbon footprint of honey

Greenhouse gas emissions from honey production

Honey production, processing, packaging, and transportation all affect the products overall carbon footprint. We consider the carbon footprint of these stages using life cycle assessments.

  • As honey production involves live insects, risks such as disease or invasive species need to be considered by producers. When it comes to calculating the carbon footprint of honey this also means that even the chemicals used in pest control and medication for the bees need to be thought about.

  • Energy is needed to power the machines which process the honey to different extents, which causes greenhouse gas emissions when not powered with renewable energy (i.e. comes from the sun, water or wind). Smaller scale businesses tend to process the honey less, and so their processing carbon footprint is lower.

  • It's also important to remember that many of the shop-brought honey products are not 100% honey. These honey products often contain added sugar, and this impacts the carbon footprint. 

  • The materials used to package honey, like glass jars and metal lids, all come with a carbon footprint to be considered too.

  • Transportation also has an impact. Honey can be produced in the UK, but the majority of the products in your local supermarket come from abroad. The honey needs be to transported via plane, ship and/or truck, depending on where is came from, for you to buy it from the shop. 

 

Are there other ways honey impacts the environment?

Honeybees can have a range of positive and negative impacts on the environment.

 

Commercial honey operations, even small ones, put pressure on wild bee species that are already declining for other reasons. This is due, in part, to the fact that honeybees are considered extreme generalist foragers, meaning they often monopolise the flowers of a given area.

 

Honeybees can also reduce the need for artificial fertilisers which can be poisonous and can harm the environment through pollination.

Tips for choosing sustainable honey
 

This is a tricky question to answer...

We'd suggest being very picky about where you source your honey from - it's best to look for a product that has been produced by local beekeepers, who keep up to date with the latest sustainable and ethical practices. 

In the UK, small scale beekeeping is quite common and so, you will be able to find options, especially if you live in a rural area. 

If the product is unprocessed and locally produced, then you are heading in the right direction. 

Honey substitutes and sustainable recipes

There are plenty of substitutes for honey out there, including maple syrup.

Have you tried our Easy Chocolate Mousse? We use maple syrup to make this delicious dessert, making it vegan-friendly too.

 

 

Want to learn more

An interesting life cycle assessment was conducted on U.S Honey Production and Packaging. You can check it out here.

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