Almonds and almond milk are both delicious (let’s be honest). This is a delicious nut whether roasted or raw. It’s wonderful that it’s the world’s second-most-consumed nut (only behind peanuts). However, as is customary, the promises of green consumerism (which is still consumerism!) are generating new markets. And these markets aren’t necessarily as long-term as we’re led to believe.
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. When deciding between almond and dairy milk, consider if you want to advocate for climate change (by choosing almonds) or for water shortage (by choosing dairy).
Choosing brands that use sustainable ways of cattle production or agroecological methods of irrigating water into California’s almond crops, on the other hand, can help lessen the impact of both types of milk. And the best way to find out is to ask companies to provide more evidence of their CSR efforts, including CSR reports and impacts.
There are more choices, which we haven’t looked at in depth in this article. However, while they outperform on some impact measures, they outperform on others. Rice milk, for example, consumes less water than almond milk but emits more pollutants. Rice, ahead of ruminants and animals, is one of the world’s greatest producers of methane emissions, according to a study on greenhouse gas emissions from rice farms. The same benefits and drawbacks apply to oat, soy, and even goat milk.
What is the environmental impact of almond milk?
The Mic Network reports that “Almond milk, the ever-popular soy-free, dairy-free, vegan-friendly milk alternative now found in chic eateries and coffee shops everywhere, is destroying the earth.”
According to a Fortune Magazine article, almond milk has grown in popularity as a dairy-free alternative for vegans and lactose-intolerant coffee drinkers alike in recent years, becoming more popular than other non-dairy milks. The market for almond milk grew by 250 percent between 2010 and 2015.
When compared to dairy milk, many consumers choose almond milk since it has a lower carbon footprint. However, almond milk has a negative impact on the environment in other ways, which may surprise you. The main concerns with almond milk production are water use and pesticide use, both of which may have long-term environmental consequences in drought-stricken California, which produces more than 80% of the world’s almonds.
Commercial almond farming in California necessitates irrigation with ground and surface water diverted from the state’s aqueduct system. According to a New York Times report, it takes around 15 gallons of water to produce 16 almonds, making almonds one of the state’s most water-intensive crops. Almond milk’s reputation as a healthy alternative has been questioned by critics who argue that the nutritional benefits do not outweigh the amounts of water required to cultivate almonds.
Given that California produces more than two billion almonds, it’s simple to see why the amount of water diverted for this purpose is significant enough to be concerning. And, because many almonds are cultivated on land that has been converted from natural areas or farms cultivating low-water crops to fulfill the expanding demand for almonds, the increased irrigation needs have been significant.
Forbes reports that “Almond farms have been established on 23,000 acres of natural land. 16,000 acres of the area had previously been categorized as wetlands. In addition, some agricultural land has been turned to almonds from lower-water crops.”
Because the ground in the San Joaquin Valley, where most almonds are grown, is already sinking due to groundwater depletion, the additional wells farmers are digging to irrigate new orchards could have long-term consequences for California and its residents who rely on groundwater for drinking water.
Pesticide use in commercial almond production has been known to contaminate already scarce water supplies and contribute to the toxification of drinking water for people in California’s farming areas, exacerbating the problem. The USDA Pesticide Data Program has identified residues of nine distinct pesticides on almonds, five of which are hazardous to honey bees, according to the Pesticide Action Network, creating another another environmental threat.
A final point to consider is that certain store-bought almond milk brands contain carrageenan, a stabilizer and thickening chemical that has been linked to gastric issues.
According to the California Almond Board, the almond industry is working to promote sustainable water usage and boost water efficiency, so there are some solutions in the works. And, while just a few million almonds are currently certified organic, more farmers are opting to go this route, resulting in a rise in certified organic almond products on the market.
- Think about your possibilities. You might alternate between several non-dairy milks, as each has its own set of perks and drawbacks. Goat and sheep milk are nutrient-dense and less allergic alternatives to cow’s milk.
- Make your own version. If almond milk is a must-have in your life, try making it at home with organic almonds. At the very least, you’ll be able to manage how much water is used in the milk-making process, resulting in a purer product.
- Purchase organically certified products. Pesticides aren’t used in certified organic almond milk, and there’s often less water used as well. When shopping, pick this option. Inquire if the caf uses certified organic products, and if not, propose they do so.
- Carrageenan-containing brands should be avoided. When purchasing almond milk, read the label carefully and avoid types that contain carrageenan.
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.
Is almond milk better for the environment?
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.
Is it true that almonds are bad for the environment?
Almonds. It turns out that those nuts you love to strew on your granola every morning are greedy little so and sos, as each almond need a gallon of water to grow.
Why is almond milk harmful to 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.”
Is the manufacture of almond milk harmful to bees?
True, almond milk is delicious and healthful. Unfortunately, the manner it’s produced and made is too much for both wild and domesticated bees, as well as beekeepers who make a living raising commercial bees.
Which milk is the most harmful to the environment?
Plant-based milk can be made from practically any grain, but rice and oat are particularly popular. They do, however, necessitate more acreage than nut milks.
Rice milk consumes a lot of water. More importantly, because methane-producing bacteria grow in rice paddies, it’s linked to higher greenhouse gas emissions than other plant-based choices.
In some situations, arsenic levels in rice milk may be too high. Fertilizers used to improve harvests can also damage adjacent waterways.
What is the healthiest milk?
Hemp milk is prepared from crushed, soaked hemp seeds that are free of the psychotropic ingredient found in Cannabis sativa plants.
Protein and omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats are abundant in the seeds. As a result, hemp milk has a somewhat higher concentration of these nutrients than other plant milks.
Although hemp milk is almost carb-free, some brands include sweets, which raise the carb count. Make sure to read the ingredient label and get hemp or any other plant milk that hasn’t been sweetened.
On the ingredient label, sugar may be described as brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, or cane sugar.
The seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant are used to make hemp milk. While the drink isn’t psychotropic, it does include more healthful fats and protein than other plant milks.
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 type of milk packaging is the most environmentally friendly?
According to a study, milk bags are better for the environment than jugs and carton containers. According to a new study by a Dalhousie University chemistry professor, milk bags are the most environmentally beneficial type of milk packaging.