Many California crops rely on bees. As the second largest producer of honey in the United States, every year California takes about 1.5 million bee colonies to pollinate 760,000 acres of almonds trees, producing nearly 2 billion pounds of nut products.
A recent article titled “California’s Honeypot, From Cradle to Grave” from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources calls attention to the carbon footprints of honey products. From nectar and pollination to the sweet tingles on your tongue, honey travels a long distance and requires a lot of energy to produce. For example, both hive construction and honey packaging consume energy in the form of fuel and electricity, and the transportation of hives around the country contributes significantly to GHG emissions.
Based on a life cycle assessment (LCA) of beekeeping activities and honey packing, researchers at UC Davis and the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) recently created a honey carbon calculator to track the amount of GHG emissions that a honey product creates throughout the process.
“Transportation proved to be an important source of GHG emissions for the honey life cycle, both for nectar harvesting and transport to processors,” a UC Davis project titled “Carbon Footprint of U.S. Honey Production and Packing” concluded. The study suggested that honey producers could reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions by minimizing transport distances and improving transportation efficiency.
Emission tracking could lead to financial benefits for environmentally-conscious honey consumers. “If you can put a carbon negative sticker on your product, then you just expanded your market,” said Elias Marvinney, a UC Davis graduate student involved in the research.
Shrinking the climate footprint of beekeeping operations is “ultimately a benefit to a farmer’s bottom line,” said Alissa Kendall, an assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “Efficiency in operations is often well aligned with reducing greenhouse gases and climate footprint…and often goes hand in hand with reducing energy use and dependence on fossil fuels and oil.”