Almond milk is bad for the environment because of its high water use (and resultant droughting effect). When you consume it outside of its main producing countries, the harm is magnified due to transportation-related emissions.
Almond milk emits less environmental gases and requires less land than dairy milk, but it is notorious for its high water consumption. Almond milk uses the most water of any of the dairy alternatives: a single glass of almond milk requires 130 liters of water.
About 80% of the almonds used in milk in the United States are grown in California, however due to the hot temperature, the almonds’ high water consumption puts a lot of stress on the dry, desert soil, especially during the frequent heatwaves and fires that ravage the state.
What role do bees play in this? All those almond trees need to be pollinated! The burden of the bees increases as the almond industry expands. Every spring, about 70% of commercial bees in the United States are enlisted to pollinate almonds. It’s believed that one-third of the bees died last year as a result of the stresses of this growth mismatch.
If you’re trying to figure out if almond milk or oat milk is better for you, look at the ingredients on the label. Both employ oils and other chemicals to give them a smooth milk-like feel.
Coconut sounds like a refreshing drink, and it appears to be something a caveman (or woman) would like. Heartwarming, romantic, and with a lovely tree to call home! However, the story is one of sweatshop conditions in poor countries, where pickers are paid less than a dollar per day.
Farmers are taking shortcuts and even forcing monkeys into inhumane labor techniques to meet worldwide demand for coconuts, according to a PETA report that reveals how the animals are attached to poles and forced to mount trees to shake loose the coconuts (an animal abuse story that has garnered international attention). “The coconut is an awful tragedy,” Isaac Emery, a food sustainability consultant, says. Cooking with coconut oil is a luxury, but it was brought to market under tough circumstances.
Meanwhile, the rainforest is being cleared to make way for these rows and rows of trees, which contribute very little to the planet’s biodiversity. According to a New York Times study, rainforests in Indonesia were clearcut at a rate of three acres per minute between 2007 and 2014 to make room for coconut palm palms. Choose Fair Trade certified coconut products to avoid supporting unsustainable methods.
Rice milk is recognized for being a less expensive option than its nut milk counterparts. However, when compared to other vegan milks, rice provides nothing in the way of nutrition or environmental benefits. Rice absorbs water and emits more greenhouse gases than any other plant species, according to an Oxford research. Furthermore, the swampy paddies leak methane into the atmosphere, as well as allowing germs to flourish and be released into the sky. When it comes to water pollution, rice is one of the worst offenders.
The chocolate lover’s dream, the innocuous hazelnut, is on the rise. Hazelnuts, like all nuts, grow on trees, and all treesindeed, all plantsuse the energy of sunlight. They absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water from the ground, then release oxygen into the atmosphere (photosynthesis!). As a result, hazelnuts are better for the environment than almonds since they are pollinated by the wind rather than bees. Hazelnuts are native to wetter climates, such as the Pacific Northwest, where water is more abundant than in parched California.
Hemp Milk and Flax Milk
Hemp and flax haven’t received the same attention as oat and almond, but they deserve greater recognition for requiring less water, producing high-protein milk, and having a high fiber content. Because they’re grown in such small quantities, they’re referred to as “niche crops.” Seeds, on the whole, are easier to grow than nuts and provide more healthful fats, minerals, and nutrients per ounce.
Soy is the winner in terms of both sustainability and protein content. And, after years of being misinterpreted as a plant-based phytoestrogen that women avoided because they feared it would increase their risk of breast cancer, new research shows that the opposite is true: that when taken in moderation, soy appears to have some preventive effect. Recent research has indicated that a moderate intake of soy is healthy and may even help regulate hormones.
Soybeans are farmed in huge amounts around the world to feed livestock for meat and dairy production, which is the biggest environmental disadvantage of soy milk. To make room for soy plantations, large areas of rainforest in the Amazon have been destroyed. To get around this, simply do some research and read the label to identify soy milk manufactured from organic soybeans cultivated in the United States or Canada.
No one could have predicted the love affair that would ensue when the latest Swedish invasion, in the guise of Oatly, arrived in the United States many years ago. Oat milk is strong in protein and tastes much like genuine milk. Growing oats has a modest environmental impact, at least for the time being. Oats are good for both your health and the environment. Also regarded as a low-input crop, oats provide crop diversity, minimize soil erosion, and help reduce the risk of plant diseases when planted in rotation. The magnificent oat is a hero grain in its own right.
Oat milk sales in the United States increased from $4.4 million in 2017 to $29 million in 2019, putting it ahead of almond milk as the fastest-growing non-dairy milk. Oats may become more of a commodity in the future. But, for the time being, there are enough oats to keep us on Oatly for many years.
Oats are typically farmed in mass-produced industrial agribusinesses, where farmers spray them with Monstanto’s glyphosate-based pesticide Roundup before harvesting. As you may be aware, Roundup has been linked to cancer in a number of high-profile cases in which jurors awarded large sums to plaintiffs. Farmers are still aware of the well-publicized occurrences, but they continue to use the chemical because of its effectiveness. Bayer, which purchased Monsanto in 2018, is disputing the active chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, causing cancer in people.
So, how much glyphosate is actually in your bowl of oats or your oat milk latte? Glyphosate was identified in all of the goods tested that used conventionally produced oats, as well as one-third of items manufactured with organic oats, according to a recent study by the Environmental Working Group. The popular Oatly brand oat milk firm, on the other hand, claims that its oats are glyphosate-free.
Pistachio milk, a latecomer to the party, is having a moment in the spotlight. That’s because the rich tiny nuts produce a convincing milk-like flow that goes well with coffee and froths up like real cream in lattes. Tache and Elmhurst both make pistachio milk, which we tasted.
Pistachios are popular not only because they are high in protein and fiber (6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per ounce), but also because they include micronutrients and critical vitamins and minerals such as calcium and zinc, making this nut milk well worth the 92 calories per cup.
If you’re looking for the most environmentally friendly non-dairy milk, you should know that pistachios use half the amount of water as almonds and are on level with oats in terms of water use.
Pea protein milk uses less water than other milk alternatives and emits fewer greenhouse gases than the majority of non-dairy milks. One explanation is that peas use 85 percent less water to grow than almonds, and they can use nitrogen from the air to form plant cells, requiring less fertilizer than other plants, which has a high carbon footprint. “Peas are significantly better on a water and carbon basis,” said Adam Lowry, inventor of Ripple Pea Milk.
Due to its minimal water requirements and the fact that it requires less fertilizer than any other non-dairy milk alternative, pea milk may be one of the most sustainable solutions for your non-dairy milk selections.
Cashew milk is the most similar to almond milk in taste and consistency, with one major difference: cashew milk is made with far less water than almond milk. Cashews, on the other hand, are not water-sparing: they require more water to grow than seeds or legumes. Overall, cashew milk is a sustainable option because it requires less area to cultivate the plants, especially when compared to other plant-based milks. Cashews’ demise is due to the mistreatment of cashew pickers. Some people boycott cashews because of the poor working conditions, which include the usage of labor camps in some locations where cashews are farmed and processed for milk.
Macadamia milk uses far less water than almond or dairy milk to develop and create. However, countries where macadamia nuts are regularly grown, such as Australia, Hawaii, and other tropical regions, have been dealing with severe water shortages and other climate-related challenges. As long as pesticides are not utilized, macadamia nuts are considered moderately sustainable since they cause less environmental impact to air, water, land, soil, and forests. If possible, purchase organic and non-GMO Macadamia Milk.
Sesame milk is a new plant milk on the market that you may not have heard of but is a terrific alternative if you’re looking for a sustainable option. This non-dairy milk replacement made from sesame seeds may be the most environmentally friendly non-dairy milk on the market.
One of the few sesame milk brands currently on the market, Hope and Sesame, claims that its alternative milk uses 95 percent less water than almond milk and 75 percent less water than oat milk. Drought-tolerant, self-pollinating, naturally pest-resistant, and hardy, sesame plants are native to Africa and India. Pesticides and herbicides aren’t needed for them to thrive.
Sesame milk consumes only 12 liters of water per liter of milk, compared to 28 liters of water for one liter of soymilk, 28 liters for each liter of oat milk, and 371 liters of water for each liter of almond milk. All are superior to cow’s milk, which necessitates the use of 628 liters of water to make one liter of milk.
What makes almonds such a horrible choice for the environment?
Water is one of the major challenges. It takes around three and a half litres of water to make a single almond. The majority of almonds about 82 percent are grown in drought-stricken California, where the sector is worth billions of dollars. In California, the number of almond orchards has risen in the previous 20 years.
Which nut milk is the most environmentally friendly?
When analyzing the environmental impact of plant milks, it’s vital to know what resources different plants require to develop and what kind of footprint they may leave.
A recent study that compared the environmental implications of dairy, soy, almond, oat, and rice milks using data from over 10,000 farms around the world determined that any nondairy milk is healthier for the planet than dairy (4).
Dairy may emit three times the amount of greenhouse gases as plant milks and require nine times the amount of land to produce. Plant milks, unlike dairy milk, do not necessitate the use of natural resources to grow animals (4).
Plants used to create commercial milks, on the other hand, demand finite resources such as land and water. They also produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, which contribute to global warming (5).
Nonetheless, all plant-based milks have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the best one may be dependent on which environmental elements are most important to you and a thorough examination of the facts provided.
There is currently no scientifically rigorous way to rank plant milk’s environmental impacts. Still, if you’re concerned about water use, avoid almond and rice milks; if you’re concerned about land use, avoid soy and oat milks.
Due to the amount of land necessary to meet demand, soy, along with cattle, is one of the most significant sources of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. According to one study, a 4-cup (1-liter) consumption of soy milk necessitates about 1 square mile (2.6 square kilometers) of land every year (4).
The majority of soy crops, on the other hand, are planted to feed cattle and produce biofuel, rather than to manufacture soy milk for people. In fact, according to some sources, only a small percentage of worldwide soy is farmed for human consumption (6).
Soy production in the United States accounts for 35% of global output. The good news is that deforestation has decreased as a result of the Amazon Soy Moratorium, which saw grain traders agree not to buy soy cultivated on recently deforested land (7, 8, 9).
Some soy milk firms, such as Silk, claim to use only organic soybeans farmed in the United States, removing the deforestation aspect from the equation.
While soy may necessitate a large amount of land, it also has other advantages. Soy crops, like other legumes, help fix nitrogen in the soil, reducing the demand for nitrogen fertilizers (10).
Almond milk is one of the most water-intensive plant milks, using far more than soy or oat milk. According to a research financed by the California Almond Board, a single California almond requires 3.2 gallons (12.1 liters) of water to produce (11).
Almonds had the biggest water footprint of any of the nine crops studied in Australia, outnumbering apples, grapes, tomatoes, oranges, peaches, cherries, potatoes, and carrots (12).
Almonds, in fact, needed so much water that the authors advised against growing them any longer (12).
Furthermore, California produces around 80% of the world’s almonds, and the state has been hit by severe droughts in recent years, further jeopardizing water supplies (13).
When it comes to land resources, nuts require less than oatmeal but more than rice, according to studies (4).
The hemp plant is environmentally benign because it produces a high yield and all of its parts can be used. The stalks and roots are used in construction materials, textile fibers, hemp paper and polymers, and the leaves and seeds are used to manufacture oil and milk (14, 15).
Hemp is also naturally disease resistant and provides shade, which helps to decrease weeds. Because of these features, hemp may be grown with fewer herbicides and pesticides. Their deep roots may also provide nutrients to the soil in where they are planted (15).
Rice milk emits a significant amount of greenhouse gas. Rice paddies are known to have bacteria that generate substantial amounts of methane when they are flooded, which is a common procedure for rice fields (16, 17, 18).
Rice, unsurprisingly, requires a lot of water to grow. Rice, on the other hand, consumes less land than soy, oats, and almonds in terms of land resources (4).
Rice is also known to have significant quantities of arsenic, which could damage neighboring streams (19).
Oats are frequently planted as large-scale monoculture crops, meaning they are the only crop grown on the same site over and over again.
Monocultures limit insect biodiversity in the surrounding ecosystem, perhaps leading to an increase in pests and, as a result, pesticide use. Monocultures can deplete soil nutrients, lowering crop fertility overall (20, 21).
Furthermore, glyphosate-based herbicides are routinely used to cultivate oats, which may increase the growth and spread of glyphosate-resistant diseases that harm plants, insects, and mammals (22).
Despite this, lifecycle evaluations undertaken by the Swedish oat milk brand Oatly show that its procedures produce 80% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 60% less energy, and 80% less land use than dairy milk (23, 24).
Keep in mind that industry-funded studies are prone to limiting variables and biases.
According to other research, oats demand more land than soy, almond, or rice. When it comes to water consumption, oats consume far less than almonds and rice, and only slightly more than soy (4).
Peas are native to locations where there is a lot of rain, thus they require less existing water to thrive.
In addition, pea crops require less irrigation and are rotated by farmers. This aids in the natural fixation of nitrogen in the soil and reduces the need for fertilizer (8, 25).
Furthermore, unlike soybeans, peas are not currently genetically modified to be herbicide-resistant (26).
Ripple says that its pea milk emits 86% less greenhouse gas than almond milk (
What type of milk is the most harmful to the environment?
Cow’s milk has a global warming potential of 1.14 in Australia and New Zealand and 2.50 in Africa, calculated in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per litre of milk. In comparison, the global warming potential of plant-based milks is 0.42 for almond and coconut milk and 0.75 for soy milk on average.
Furthermore, dairy consumes nine times the amount of land as any of the plant-based alternatives. Cow’s milk requires 8.9 square meters per year, compared to 0.8 square meters for oat, 0.7 square meters for soy, 0.5 square meters for almond, and 0.3 square meters for rice milk.
Cow’s milk uses 628 litres of water per litre of dairy, compared to 371 litres for almond, 270 litres for rice, 48 litres for oat, and 28 litres for soy milk.
Are almonds good for the environment?
Despite the fact that nuts have a lower carbon footprint than animal-based products, not all nuts are created equal in terms of sustainability.
Groundnuts, legumes (such as peanuts), and tree nuts (such as macadamia nuts) all require distinct cultivation techniques. Because trees absorb carbon from the environment, tree nut cultivation produces fewer GHG emissions per 100g protein.
Because almonds require a lot of water to mature, they are typically regarded as being less environmentally friendly. Each almond requires a gallon (4.6 litres) of water to manufacture. California produces 82 percent of the world’s almonds, and with the state still suffering from droughts, you can imagine where the finger of blame is pointed.
Almond cultivation has the potential to destabilize ecosystems and put a pressure on bee populations. Intensive pollination operations may cause bees to be hurt or killed during cross-country transit, which can spread diseases and illnesses to adjacent colonies.
Is this, however, a reason to avoid almonds? At the end of the day, almond cultivation has a substantially lesser environmental impact than beef production. In addition, efforts are being made to limit the amount of water used in almond production. Drip irrigation systems, which give plants with smaller, targeted amounts of water, have been introduced by many almond producers in California.
Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and brazil nuts, on the other hand, are excellent examples of sustainable food production because they require little water and maintenance. Brazil nuts are also good for the jungle and help to prevent deforestation.
Each of these nuts uses 2kg CO2eq to create 1kg, which is the equivalent of a car traveling 5 kilometers, according to Healabel. Almonds, on the other hand, have a higher carbon footprint, requiring 3.56 kilograms of CO2 equivalent to produce 1 kilogram. Walnuts and pistachios have the smallest carbon footprints, emitting 0.76kg CO2eq and 1.1kg CO2eq per kilogram of product, respectively.
But, according to Climate Smart Macadamia Agroforestry (CSMA), a technique pioneered by HIMACUL farmers with the direction of The Neno Macadamia Trust, macadamia nuts have the potential to have a substantially lower level of GHG emissions (NMT).
Why is it better for the environment to drink plant-based milk?
Organic plant-based milks are better for the environment since they use fewer chemical fertilizers, are pesticide- and herbicide-free, and put less strain on the soil.
What is the environmental impact of dairy?
Dairy production is also a significant emitter of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 265-298 times that of carbon dioxide. Through livestock dung, fertilized soils, and fertilizer run-off and leaching, agriculture produces 4.5 million tonnes of nitrous oxide each year.
What’s the deal with almond milk and bees?
The almond sector in California, which is worth $11 billion (8.4 billion), is booming. Almond orchards covered 500,000 acres in 2000. By 2018, the number of almond orchards in the Central Valley had more than doubled, covering an area the size of Delaware and producing 2.3 billion pounds (1 million tonnes) of almonds annually for export.
Every year, the average American consumes 2 pounds (900 grams) of almonds, more than any other country. According to a 2018 Nielsen survey, US almond milk sales have increased by 250 percent in the last five years to $1.2 billion, more than four times that of any other plant-based milk.
“We don’t see a ceiling on expansion at this point,” says Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board of California, a non-profit lobbying organization that represents the majority of farmers.
It wasn’t that long ago that beekeeping was mostly a gentlemen apiarist’s hobby. When European immigrants brought their own form of agriculture to North America, they also brought the art of beekeeping with them, as well as boxes of Apis mellifera, the domesticated European honeybee.
Beekeepers made a living selling beeswax and honey in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But, as shown by Dennis Arp’s career in the late twentieth century, there was a massive shift.
Arp, 67, began beekeeping nearly four decades ago in Flagstaff, Arizona, when he founded Mountain Top Honey. Arp is the type of dedicated beekeeper who spends his days driving between apiary sites and his nights studying internet forums and reading papers on the latest mite treatment. He has a dominating presence with biceps toned from heaving large bee boxes.
When the cost of imported honey began to eat into Arp’s profits in the 1980s, he decided to move some of his hives to California to pollinate almonds with the help of a beekeeper buddy. He made his own agreement with an almond producer in Kern County, California, a decade later. With that strategic move, Arp joined the rising ranks of migratory beekeepers in the United States, who still sell honey but primarily tour the country with stacks of bee boxes in tow from one pollination location to the next.
When Arp was merely selling honey in the early 1980s, he would lose around 5% of his hives each year due to disease or weather. Arp’s bees began to die in higher numbers around the year 2000.
For starters, an infection of tracheal mites caused him to lose nearly all of his hives. Then he had to deal with the influx of Africanized people “bees that are “killing” Finally, a parasite mite known as Varroa destructor actually sucked the life out of his bees, which he still considers the bane of his business. The mite feeds on the bee’s fat body, weakening its immune system and other critical processes in the process. Arp’s colonies will die if he does not treat them with chemicals on a regular basis.
Arp is now trapped in a vicious spiral, continually fighting to maintain enough bees alive to meet the demands of his almond contract. However, if he wasn’t pollinating almonds, his bees could be in better shape.
Arp’s bees, like more than two-thirds of the commercial honeybee population in the United States, will spend February fertilizing almond blossoms one at a time in the toxic chemical soup of California’s Central Valley.
Pesticides are used on a variety of crops across the state, but the almond, which produces 35 million pounds per year, receives the most. The herbicide glyphosate (AKA Roundup), which is a staple of large-scale almond growers and has been proved to be fatal to bees as well as cause cancer in humans, is one of the most extensively used pesticides. (When people use Roundup at the recommended dosage, the maker, Bayer-owned Monsanto, rejects the cancer link.) Three US courts have ruled in favor of glyphosate users who acquired lymphoma this year, with many more claims pending.)
Almond pollination is particularly taxing for bees, in addition to the threat of chemicals, because colonies are awoken from winter slumber one to two months sooner than is natural. The sheer number of hives required vastly outnumbers that of other crops; for example, apples, America’s second-largest pollination crop, require only one-tenth as many bees. Furthermore, the bees are concentrated in one geographic region at the same time, raising the likelihood of disease spread dramatically.
“In California, bees are exposed to a variety of diseases,” explains Arp. “Hundreds of thousands of hives from numerous beekeepers can be found in a single staging area. It’s like letting your bees into a singles club and then having unprotected sex with them.”
Arp has done well in the almond industry in February, for example, he planted 1,500 of his hives in one grower’s orchard at a cost of $200 per hive but he is hesitant to draw a straight link between his bees’ constant health problems and his time spent in the almond groves every spring. “The bees enjoy working on the almonds, according to Arp. “However, it clearly puts them in danger.”
He now loses 30 percent or more of his bees every year, which is consistent with national numbers. In any other industry, the loss of a third of your workers would be cause for international outrage – but in this case, it’s just part of the price of doing business.
“The almond grove bees are being exploited and humiliated,” says Patrick Pynes, an organic beekeeper and environmental studies professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “They are in serious decline as a result of our damaging human interaction with them.”
Which milk has the least amount of carbon?
Cow’s milk is far worse for the environment than any of the non-dairy milks. They consume less land, less water, and emit less greenhouse emissions. Because almond trees store a lot of CO2 as they develop, almond milk has the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. However, of all the vegan milks, it uses the most water to make. Soy milk consumes the least amount of water and emits the fewest pollutants.