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 typical 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 alternatives 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 makes almond milk so bad for bees?
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.
What’s the drawback to almond milk?
1. You are having stomach problems. If you ingest an excessive amount of important nutrients and minerals from almonds, you may experience digestive disorders such as nausea, stomach discomfort, dysentery, and bowel troubles. In fact, it can cause serious gastrointestinal issues in certain people and interfere with their prescriptions.
Is it true that bees are killed to manufacture almond milk?
Every winter, billions of honeybees are roused from their hibernation, transported to California, and exposed to a “soup” of bacteria, parasites, and deadly chemicals in order to serve as pollinators for the almond milk industry, which is rapidly expanding.
They become ill and weary, and many do not survive. Every year, up to 30% of the population dies.
Our vulnerable bees deserve better, and almond milk users deserve a product that is truly animal-friendly.
The good news is that almonds can be grown in ways that do not hurt or kill bees. However, Blue Diamond (Almond Breeze), the world’s most popular almond milk, would not commit to utilizing only bee-friendly almonds. Danone, the maker of Silk and Alpro, says it’s working toward bee-friendly accreditation, but hasn’t committed to a specific date.
Before it’s too late, we need to use public pressure to get almond milk companies on board with the bees.
Almond milk is the most popular plant milk in the world, outselling alternatives such as soy, coconut, and oat milk by a factor of nearly five. And the vast majority of the almonds used in it are grown in pesticide-saturated monocultures in California’s Central Valley.
Consumers who care about the environment are raking in billions of dollars from almond milk companies. They should be doing all possible to make their product sustainable, rather than cutting corners with megafarms that ignore their bees (on top of depleting California’s limited water supply).
That’s why bee researchers have detailed how almond farms can help pollinators live in a better environment. And if enough of us band together, we can ensure that every almond milk producer joins in.
After the Guardian expos on bees and almond milk in January, companies like Blue Diamond, Danone, and others are scrambling to maintain their products’ benign reputation. The time has come to campaign for a bee-saving almond revolution!
According to our findings, brands are making progress: Silk has worked to promote biodiversity on select California fields, while Alpro sources almonds from bee-friendly environments in the Mediterranean where it has implemented conservation projects. However, neither parent firm Danone nor competitor Blue Diamond (which is even further behind) have committed to a complete supply chain overhaul, let alone a specific date for using only almonds from certified bee-friendly orchards.
We can make almond milk into a dairy replacement that is good for all animals, including bees, with your support.
What types of milk are harmful to the environment?
Cow’s milk is by far the most popular and widely available type of milk. Regrettably, it has by far the greatest environmental impact. Cow’s milk requires nine times the amount of land and emits three times the amount of CO2 as any non-dairy milk alternative.
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 (
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).
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.
Why isn’t almond milk a vegan option?
On that topic, while certain almond milks may contain animal-derived chemicals, in all my years of checking almond milk labels, I’ve yet to come across any non-vegan components.
It’s a good idea to double-check the label because some almond milks are fortified with nutrients that may possibly come from animals. If vitamin D is present, for example, you’ll want to make sure it’s in the form of vitamin D2.
Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, can be obtained from non-animal sources (such as lichen), however vegan-friendly D3 is uncommon and is more commonly found in supplements than in food.