It’s pumpkin time in the States as Halloween approaches. One and a quarter billion pounds of pumpkins are produced here each year. The majority are canned as pumpkin pie mixes. Most of the rest are used to create Jack O’Lanterns for displaying at Halloween. And many of those end up in the trash.
Pumpkins and pesticides?
Pumpkins have two big problems; insects love them and they catch lots of diseases such as bacterial wilt and mildew. So what do the farmers do? Apply liberal doses of pesticides and fungicides. More bad news, pumpkins are so efficient at absorbing poisons from the soil they could be used as a filter to clean out toxins like DDT, PCBs and Dioxins.
Pumpkin’s carbon footprint
Fertilizers are used to promote pumpkin growth but also give out large quantities of nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide only makes up about 8% of total greenhouse gases. Even so, it has a global warming potential of around 300 times greater than carbon dioxide!
A study in Germany calculated the carbon footprint of pumpkins to range from 139 g to 448 g CO2 equivalent per kilo. The lowest figure was from a large specialized pumpkin farm that used potassium-based fertilizers. Second best, a small organic farm and next imported pumpkins from Argentina. The worst was a small conventional farm using nitrogen-based fertilizers. Buying locally-produced pumpkins is not always the greenest choice!
And so many of those Halloween pumpkins end up in the trash and then in landfill. When organic matter breaks down, it releases the gas methane. Methane is a significant greenhouse gas with 25 times the strength of carbon dioxide. And those landfills contribute nearly 20% of all methane emissions in the States.
- buy organic, edible pumpkins from a trusted source
- don’t travel long distances to buy your pumpkins
- don’t throw your pumpkin in the trash after Halloween
- use the pumpkin flesh to make pies and soups
- roast the seeds to eat yourselves or feed them to the birds
- compost the pumpkin shell or bury it direct in your garden.