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 soy or almond milk more environmentally friendly?
Milk is a basic food in many cultures throughout the world. However, dairy can significantly add to our food’s greenhouse gas emissions. It accounts for just over a quarter of the carbon footprint in normal EU diets, and up to one-third in some cases. 1
As people become more aware of this, they are turning to plant-based alternatives. Non-dairy milks are currently consumed by one-quarter of adults in the United Kingdom, according to polls (although not always exclusively). It’s much more popular among younger people, with one-third of 16 to 23-year-olds choosing it. 2
Soy, oat, almond, rice, and coconut milk are among the ‘plant-based’ milk replacements now available. This begs two questions: are plant-based milks truly better for the environment, and which is the best?
We compare milks on a number of environmental criteria in this graph, including land use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and eutrophication, or the pollution of ecosystems with excess nutrients. These are measured in milliliters of milk. 3 I discuss some of the differences in nutritional content of different milks at the end of this post, which are crucial to consider in particular groups.
Across all criteria, cow’s milk has a significantly bigger impact than plant-based alternatives. It produces three times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes ten times the amount of land, utilizes two to twenty times the amount of freshwater, and results in significantly greater levels of eutrophication.
Switching to plant-based alternatives is a fantastic option if you want to lessen your diet’s environmental impact.
Which vegan milk is the best? It all depends on the impact we’re most concerned with. Almond milk emits less greenhouse gases and takes up less land than soy milk, but it requires more water and contributes to eutrophication.
Although all of the options have a smaller environmental impact than dairy, there is no obvious winner across the board.
Is soy milk more environmentally friendly than almond milk?
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 ).
Which milk is the least harmful to the environment?
However, each plant-based milk has advantages and disadvantages. Pea milk is the most environmentally friendly of the three because its environmental impact is nearly identical to that of oat milk. Both cashew and macadamia milk are superior to dairy milk and consume less water than almond milk; however, pick organic varieties to avoid pesticides. Sesame milk, which uses less water, is another environmentally good option.
What makes almond milk such a bad choice for the environment?
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.
Which milk is the most environmentally friendly?
One thing is undeniable. All milk substitutes are far better for the environment than dairy. According to a 2018 study conducted by academics at the University of Oxford, producing a glass of dairy milk emits about three times the amount of greenhouse gases as any plant-based milk and consumes nine times the amount of land as any other milk alternative. (Land is needed to pasture the cows and cultivate their feed, which the animals produce as methane.)
Plant milks might, however, have a negative side, just like any other crop produced in large amounts. It’s crucial to think about more than whether they’re cultivated organically. Other considerations include the impact of crop farming on people and native habitats in underdeveloped nations, as well as the carbon footprint and water consumption. While each product has its own set of trade-offs, certain plant milks are more environmentally friendly than others.
Here’s an environmental ranking of plant milks, from the regrettably sour to the sustainably delicious, based on expert interviews.
Is almond milk good 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 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.
Is it true that soy milk is hazardous for the environment?
My second favorite substitute is soy milk. Soy has long been the go-to substitute for nondairy milk. In terms of water use, a liter of soy milk necessitates the use of 297 liters. While soy uses a third of the water required by dairy, alternatives such as oat use less.
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, 200 milliliters of soy milk produces 0.195 kilos of CO2. This figure is a third of dairy’s emissions, making soy a good sustainable replacement milk choice at a price range of $1 to $3 per half gallon.
Which plant milk is the most nutritious?
Is your almond milk truly healthy? It might taste nice and won’t give you any of the negative effects that cow’s milk does. However, despite the fact that plant-based milk beverages of this type have been on the market for several decades and are promoted as being healthy and wholesome for lactose-intolerant people, little research has been done to compare the benefits and drawbacks of different types of plant-based milk. A recent study from McGill University compares the nutritional qualities of four of the most regularly consumed plant-based milk beverages around the world almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk to those of cow’s milk. Soy milk comes out on top after cow’s milk, which is still the most nutritious.
In every case, the researchers compared the unsweetened versions of the various plant-based milks, and the figures below are for a 240 ml serving.
Soy milk is popular because of its anti-carcinogenic qualities, which are attributed to phytonutrients called isoflavones found in the milk.
However, the ‘beany flavor’ and the presence of anti-nutrients are cause for concern (substances that reduce nutrient intake and digestion).
Lactose-free and suitable as a substitute for those with allergies to soybeans and almonds.
Apart from the high carbohydrate content, there are concerns that consuming rice milk without sufficient supervision can lead to malnutrition, particularly in babies.
Consumption can help lower levels of dangerous low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol), which are linked to heart disease.
Almond milk the need for additional dietary sources to provide critical elements
Almonds are abundant in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which are thought to help with weight loss and management. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is similarly reduced by MUFA (bad cholesterol).
A wholesome, complete food that contains all of the essential nutrients such as fat, carbs, and proteins.
Because numerous positive anti-microbial activities are seen in both human and bovine milks, it can aid people by delivering a wide spectrum of host-defence proteins. (For example, newborns who drink cow’s milk have a lower risk of fever and respiratory illnesses, according to one study.)
The presence of pathogens such as Bacillus spp., Listeria spp., Salmonella spp., and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in milk and milk products, particularly those derived from raw, unpasteurized milks, has been linked to foodborne sickness and diarrhoea over the world.
One of the most frequent allergies in newborns and children, with 2.2-3.5 percent of children suffering from it (a greater percentage than those who are affected by peanuts and tree nut allergies). By the age of 5-6, up to 35% of these infants have outgrown their milk allergy, and by the age of 16 this number may rise to 80%.
Lactose intolerance, which is caused by a lack or shortage of the enzyme lactase in the digestive tract, affects 15-75 percent of all adults, depending on race, diet, and gut health.
According to some research, lactose intolerance affects 80 percent of Africans, 100 percent of Asians, and 100 percent of Indigenous Americans.
More research is needed to understand the effects of various standard and unique processing methods on the nutritional profile, flavor, and texture of these alternative milks, according to the researchers.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada provided funding (NSERC).
Which type of milk is the most nutritious?
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 better to drink soy 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. A seven-ounce glass of carbon dioxide contains around 0.4 pounds.