Chipotle is Teaching us How to Lose Consumer Confidence

The Lempert Report
September 11, 2020

Chipotle released a line of sustainable apparel a few weeks ago called Chipotle Goods, including shirts and canvas tote bags dyed with ink from leftover avocado pits.

Sounds like a good thing to reinforce sustainability, right? Chipotle happens to be one of the largest purchasers of avocados in the United States, and has so far diverted about 10,000 pits towards the limited-edition clothing line.  Chipotle goes through 300 million avocados a year, which produces roughly 18,750 tons of pits. My crude calculation of one avocado pit weighing approximately 1 ¼ ounces means that they produce 25,600 pits per ton or 480 million avocado pits. So why use just 10,000?

Well the answer is simple: the effort seems to be all about marketing and has little to do with being environmentally responsible. Here’s why:

The reused hand-dyes come from just a fraction of the avocado pits, and require significant water and other resources to produce.

To be fair, Chipotle has a similar goal to save 50 percent of all store waste from landfills by 2020. So far, according to a report in The Counter, it’s on track. Between efforts to recycle more cardboard, compost more kitchen scraps, and donate more leftovers, the chain diverted 47 percent of waste last year, up 42 percent from 2018, according to their April sustainability report.

Winona Quigley, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Green Matters, is quoted as saying they’ve so far boiled about 10,000 Chipotle avocado pits for color. Once the seeds are cooked down, they’re removed from the stock and composted on-site. The dye stock is diluted with more water, and poured into industrial drums, where the cotton T-shirts, sweatshirts, and canvas tote bags are added and continuously agitated. When it’s all said and done, each T-shirt or tote in the collection requires the juice from about five pits, and all the water comes from a rainwater cistern. Chipotle also uses oganic cotton that requires more water than conventional cotton grown in India then sent to China for manufacturing the products.

Avocado seeds actually have a higher concentration of tannins, which are molecules that bind the color to fabric and create durable, lasting dyes that don’t come out in the wash or sun-bleach so quickly. The resulting color is a muted pink.

Last time I checked they were sold out.