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Zero Waste and Climate Smart

Using Everything The Orchard Grows

Finding ways to reduce our environmental footprint while adding value is at the heart of almond farming, ensuring farmers can grow a better future for their families, communities and the planet.

Low carbon footprint.

Finding ways to reduce our environmental footprint while adding value is at the heart of almond farming, ensuring farmers can grow a better future for their families, communities and the planet.

Almond trees capture and store a significant amount of carbon over their 25-year life cycle, and using the hulls, shells, and trees themselves are key ways farmers are reducing the carbon footprint of almond production1. Considering the inherent properties of trees and traditional uses of almond coproducts, current almond farming practices are offsetting about 50% of their carbon emissions.2 With further production improvements and policy changes, the California almond community could eventually be carbon neutral, or even carbon negative.

According to Dr. Alissa Kendall, researcher at University of California, Davis, “California almonds have a lower carbon footprint than many other nutrient-dense foods.”

In fact, A University of Oxford study found that nuts, including almonds, are responsible for far fewer greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of food compared to other agriculture such as beef, dairy and poultry1.

Climate-smart farming.

Can you recycle an entire orchard? A new approach pioneered by almond farmers  is doing just that. 

So how does it work? Almond orchards generally live for 25 years, during which the trees remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it as wood, a process known as carbon sequestration. At the end of their productive lives, whole almond trees are ground up and incorporated back into the soil known as whole orchard recycling, this climate-smart approach improves soil health, boosts water efficiency, increases yields and reduces greenhouse gases. Farms that use whole orchard recycling have been found to sequester 5 tons of carbon per hectare3, equivalent to living car-free for a year for each acre of land4.  

Zero Waste

Using Everything The Orchard Grows

The nutritious almonds we eat5 grow in a shell, protected by a hull, on a tree. The trees capture and store a significant amount of carbon dioxide over their 25-year lifecycle. At the end of their productive lives, whole almond trees are ground up and incorporated back into the soil to improve soil health and reduce greenhouse gases.  What’s more, using everything the orchard grows (hulls, shells, and woody biomass) offsetting the  associated carbon emission of other industries. The hulls become livestock feed, offsetting the need to grow other crops, and the shells are used as livestock bedding. Nothing goes to waste.

Building a circular economy.

Almond farmers are committed to new uses of almond coproducts that can support a circular economy where every by-product is an input for another product or valuable in its own right. In a bid to find even more innovative and sustainable uses for almond coproducts, researchers are looking at how to use almond hulls and shells to cultivate mushrooms, strengthen post-consumer recycled plastics, and even brew beer.[place goals logo here] Today, the almond community is spurring innovation for higher-value and more sustainable uses with 92 projects funded to date and promising research in the areas of recycled plastics, fuel, and regenerative agriculture. In fact, by 2025, the California almond community commits to achieve zero waste  in our orchards by putting everything we grow to optimal use. 

Using almond hulls in nutraceutical bars, dietary supplements and as a skincare or cosmetic ingredient are other promising options. And research has found that almond shells can be used as a replacement for carbon black, an important ingredient in tyres that is traditionally sourced from fossil fuel by-products.

One promising area uses torrefaction, burning materials in the absence of oxygen, to transform almond shells into a charcoal-like material to be added to post-consumer recycled plastics, making them stronger and more heat stable. This new approach increases our ability to recycle existing plastic, resulting in less new plastic in the world.4

Part of the Solution

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Spotlight On: Zero Waste
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2025 Goals: Zero Waste

1. Kendall A, Mervinney E, Brodt S, Zhu W. Life cycle based assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in almond production. Journal of Industrial Ecology. 2015.

2. Alissa Kendall, et al. A scalable and spatiotemporally resolved agricultural life cycle assessment of California almonds. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 2021.

3. Emad Jahanzad, et al. Orchard recycling improves climate change adaptation and mitigation potential of almond production systems. PLoS ONE. March 2020.

4. Seth Wynes, et al. The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters. 2017.

5. Good news about almonds and heart health. Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 42.5 grams of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of almonds (28 grams) has 13 grams of unsaturated fat and only 1 gram of saturated fat.