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.
Is it true that almond milk is bad 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 almond milk more environmentally friendly than ordinary milk?
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.
What impact do almonds have on 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).
What are the effects of milk on the environment?
Dairy production contributes significantly to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases such methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. Feed production, enteric fermentation, and manure management are the most significant sources of these emissions in milk production in the United States.
Which nut 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 is the most environmentally friendly milk?
Soy milk has been consumed in China for millennia and is well-known in the West, while hemp milk is a relatively recent option.
Legumes are all nitrogen-fixing plants. This means that bacteria in plant tissue create nitrogen, increasing soil fertility and reducing the demand for fertilizers. Legumes are also water-wise, especially when compared to nuts and dairy products.
In terms of water, global warming potential, and land consumption, soy milk has a very good environmental performance.
Soybeans are mostly produced in the United States and Brazil, and the plant is quite adaptable in terms of commercial use, with a substantial portion of the beans being utilized as livestock feed.
What are the differences between soy almond organic and ordinary milk in terms of environmental impact?
According to a 2014 study published in the scholarly Journal of Industrial Ecology, 400 grams of carbon dioxide are released into the environment for every cup of cow’s milk produced. This compares to 200 grams of soy milk per cup and 174 grams of almonds per cup.
Which milk is the most moral?
Soy milk is a joint winner on the sustainability scale, according to the Oxford study. Furthermore, soy is the only plant milk that comes close to matching the protein level of dairy. Long before almond milk became popular, it was the go-to option but then soy fell out of favor.
“People were alarmed because soy contains a rather high concentration of certain hormones that are similar to human hormones,” adds Emery. “But, in reality, you’d have to drink an absurd amount of soy milk and eat so much tofu for that to ever be an issue.” Recent research has indicated that a moderate intake of soy is beneficial to women’s health.
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.
Is dairy good for the environment?
Dairy cows are environmentally friendly in every way, even what they eat. Dairy cows can consume up to 100 pounds of food each day and drink up to 50 gallons of water. When striving to build a nutritious feed mix, dairy farmers use waste from various industries or farms to provide a healthy diet that is also environmentally beneficial. Cows are the ultimate upcyclers, eating byproducts that humans can’t eat, such citrus pulp, almond hulls, Brewers grain, and more, reducing the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills. These byproducts are also useful to the cows, since they provide vital energy for them to make milk more efficiently.
Is almond milk a bee killer?
According to statistics, 50 million bees died between 2018 and 2019. Pesticides are used in excess on almond crops, which is damaging to bee populations. Almonds necessitate that bees awaken from their hibernation early in order to attend to the harvest season.
“The bees in the almond trees are being abused and humiliated,” Patrick Pynes, an organic beekeeper in Arizona, told the Guardian. They are in serious decline as a result of our damaging human interaction with them.”
Scientists are working on developing almond cultivars that pollinate with fewer bees to help alleviate the problem. California has also created a “Bee Where” scheme to coordinate hive locations and notify farmers about pesticide spraying.
SumOfUs, a vegan advocacy group, is questioning almond milk’s vegan credentials since it requires so many bees in its production. Commercial almond milk makers have stated that they hope to produce bee-friendly almond milk, but have provided no schedule or more information. Efforts to lessen the impact on bee populations have resulted in the development of a “Bee Better” certification. Farmers must boost biodiversity by planting clover, wildflowers, and mustard in between trees, according to the certification.