Is Almond Milk Better For The Environment?

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 whether you want to advocate for climate change (by choosing almonds) or for water scarcity (by choosing dairy).

Choosing brands that use sustainable methods of cattle raising or agroecological methods of irrigating water into California’s almond crops, on the other hand, can help reduce 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.

Almond Milk

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 Milk

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

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.

Hazelnut Milk

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 Milk

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.

Oat Milk

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

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 Milk

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

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

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

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.

Which type of milk is the most environmentally friendly?

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.

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.

Why is almond milk not a long-term solution?

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.

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.

Is it true that almonds are hazardous 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).

Is it better to drink almond milk or oat milk for the environment?

When compared to cow’s milk, almond milk, and soy milk, oat milk has the lowest overall carbon footprint, according to data published by Columbia University’s Climate School.

Is it healthier to drink soy or almond milk?

Both are relatively healthy choices for any omnivorous or plant-based diet. Soy milk has a few more calories, but it also has a lot more protein and antioxidants. Although some people prefer the taste of almond milk, soy milk has a much creamier and richer texture.

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.

FIELD TO FACTORY

Soy milk is, without a doubt, the original plant-based milk. It has a longer history and is more popular than the others, owing to a taste, texture, and nutritional profile that is most similar to cow’s milk. Soybeans are legumes with Asian roots that are currently farmed all over the world, with a large concentration of fields in the United States’ central region, the bulk of which are used to manufacture animal feed. Soybeans are typically pressed, the insoluble fiber is removed, and other components (such as vitamins for fortification) are blended in.

THE ISSUES

Soy milk should, in theory, be one of the most environmentally friendly options. According to studies, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions connected with soybean production are substantially lower than dairy and are about comparable to almond and pea milk, while soybeans require less than a tenth of the water that almonds do. Soy milk outperforms almond milk by a landslide on both categories when the figures are modified to compare based on protein produced rather than liter by liter. Soybeans are legumes, which means they fix nitrogen in the soil, reducing the demand for nitrogen fertilizers.

Joseph Poore, a UK-based researcher, recently collated and evaluated data from over 38,000 farms in 119 countries on how food production affects the environment. He claims that soy’s environmental Achilles heel is that it takes a lot of space to grow the beans compared to almonds or rice. We’re growing so much soy these days that it’s destroying areas of the Amazon to cultivate it. Furthermore, the great majority of soybeans are produced in monocropped systems in the United States, and while they may not require as much nitrogen fertilizer, they do use phosphorus fertilizers, which are linked to runoff that causes dead zones.

They’re also Roundup-ready, which means they’ve been genetically modified to withstand high doses of the herbicide glyphosate, which pollutes ecosystems and has been related to cancer risk, particularly among farmworkers. Many large firms that make soy milk, however, utilize organic or non-GMO soybeans, and some, like Silk, mention that they solely source from the United States and Canada (so you don’t have to worry about rainforest devastation).

THE TAKEAWAY

Soy is a fantastic option, especially if you’re getting your protein from milk. Check the source of the soybeans and/or buy organic or non-GMO.

Almonds are produced by trees, and many of these trees may be found in California. In reality, Florida provides nearly 80% of the world’s almond supply, and output has expanded over the last decade as more research on the health benefits of almonds have been released, increasing demand. Almonds are ground or pulverized, then blended with water and filtered to make almond milk.

It’s likely that you’ve heard that producing almonds necessitates a lot of water, and this is correct. Nuts, in general, have a high water footprint when compared to other plants, and the actual issue is that these thirsty nuts are grown in California, where severe drought is a persistent concern. According to a recent study, one California almond has a total water footprint of 3.2 gallons. While you could argue that almonds are worth the investment because they are so nutrient-dense, the process of turning them into milk removes the majority of the nutrients that all that precious water was used to grow. Even if all of the almonds in each carton were maintained undamaged, you would only obtain a small amount of nutrition.

Almonds don’t produce any more greenhouse gases or consume any more land than other alternative milks, but they drink a lot of water in a region where water is scarce. After all, you’re drinking a product that’s little more than water at the end of the day. Sure, eat almonds in moderation, but there are more sustainable milk alternatives.

Many firms currently produce oat milk, but Oatly, a Swedish brand, has been doing so for about 30 years and is the most widely available. Grain Millers provides the corporation with Canadian oats throughout the United States. Whole oat groats are combined with water and a natural enzyme combination in Oatly’s patented method. Oatly filters away insoluble fiber while leaving the heart-healthy beta-glucans after the enzyme breaks down the oats into liquid portions (a form of soluble fiber). Other businesses utilize a mixing and straining method for mechanical breakdown.

When compared to cow’s milk, the manufacture of Oatly’s oat milk results in 80 percent lower GHG emissions and 60 percent less energy use, according to an LCA study conducted in Sweden by Oatly. (The statistics for cow’s milk came from the Ecoinvent database, which was obtained from Canadian dairy producers.) It’s worth noting that this is most likely from conventional dairy producers, and it ignores the possible environmental benefits of organic and/or grassfed dairy systems.) It also utilizes around 80% less land, according to the study. Oats need the least amount of water of all the plants used to make milk. In terms of nutrients, oat milk is far more nutrient-dense than almond milk, but not as nutrient-dense as soy, pea, or hemp milk (but that varies depending on the brand). One issue is that oats are frequently contaminated with glyphosate at levels considered hazardous, according to a recent analysis, because growers spray Roundup on the grain right before harvest. For example, Oatly does not utilize organic oats in the United States, but its source claims that producers are not allowed to use glyphosate.

If you buy oat milk from a company that sources organic or glyphosate-free oats, it scores good grades on most parameters. Its most notable feature is perhaps its flavor and texture, which consumers (and baristas) prefer above other alternative milks. After all, no matter how environmentally green a food is, it won’t assist the earth if no one wants to eat it.

Pea milk is one of the newest additions to the market, with Ripple and Bolthouse Farms being the most popular brands. Ripple takes split yellow peas from the Midwest of the United States and Canada, mills them into flour, and then adds water, sunflower oil, and vitamins.

Because peas and soybeans are both legumes, pea milk has a lot in common with soy milk. Peas incorporate nitrogen into the soil and require less water than many other crops, lowering the need for nitrogen fertilizers. They’re also grown in locations with less water scarcity than almonds. Researchers determined that manufacturing Ripple pea milk produces equivalent GHG emissions to soy (which are less than half that of cow’s milk) in an LCA analysis done for Ripple (bearing in mind the preceding disclaimer on industry-funded studies). When compared to almond milk on a protein basis, the finished product is rich in nutrientsparticularly proteinso it wins by a long shot on both water use and GHG emissions. Peas, unlike soybeans, are not currently genetically modified to withstand herbicides. And, while Ripple’s peas aren’t organic, the dry, chilly conditions in which they’re cultivated allow them to be farmed with relatively few chemicals. Pea milks are still hard to come by in general, but Suja offers a certified-organic version.

Pea milk is equivalent to soy milk in terms of being a sustainable, high-protein option, and depending on the brand and variety, it may require fewer pesticides to produce. One drawback is that the flavor is a little grassier than other plant-based milks, making it more difficult for individuals who are acclimated to dairy to acclimatize.

Hemp milk has been accessible in the United States for some time, but it had to be imported due to restrictions prohibiting the cultivation of hemp in the country. Hemp production was recently allowed under the 2018 agriculture bill, thus the milk is sure to gain traction. Hemp seeds are a good supply of protein and healthy fats, therefore they’re a good source of nourishment. Hemp milk is made by blending them with water (and sometimes a few other things).

Because of its resilience and flexibility, hemp has been an important crop throughout history (for food, fiber and medicinal uses). While there hasn’t been a formal LCA study comparing hemp milk to other milks, research suggests hemp has a number of environmental advantages: Because of its hardiness, it is great in improving soil health and requires relatively little pesticides. The European Environmental Agency conducted a research that assessed the environmental effects of 16 typical crops across characteristics such as pesticides, erosion, and water use, and hemp was ranked in the top five. Hemp farming uses more water than oat, soy, or pea farming (though significantly less than almond or cow’s milk production). Finally, hemp milk is higher in protein than almond or oat milk, but lower in protein than soy or pea milk; it also contains beneficial fats.

Hemp is a well-known crop for its long-term viability, and its seeds make a healthy milk base. More data on hemp milk processing is needed to fully compare its environmental impact to that of other plant-based milks.